Archive for the 'Newsletters and reports' Category

Concept Paper – “Partnership dialogue 3: Minimizing and addressing ocean acidification” (The Ocean Conference 2017)

(… ) I. Introduction

Ocean acidification is a threat to marine organisms, ecosystems, services, and resources. It has potentially considerable ecological and socio-economic consequences, adding to multiple stressors on ocean ecosystems, including other climate-driven changes (e.g. ocean warming, sea level rise, and deoxygenation) and local pressures from pollution, overexploitation, and habitat destruction.

One fourth of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from anthropogenic activities is absorbed by the ocean.1 However, this vital service is not without consequence: when carbon dioxide enters the ocean it changes seawater chemistry, resulting in increased seawater acidity. That change severely affects biological processes, with potentially profound socio-economic impacts.

The long-term control of ocean acidification depends on the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. In this regard, ratification and effective implementation of the Paris Agreement will be instrumental. Even if carbon dioxide emissions are reduced immediately, there will be a lag time before the acidity levels of oceans normalize, particularly since more acidic surface ocean waters mix with deep water over a cycle that lasts hundreds of years. Therefore, it is critical to build the resilience of ocean ecosystems and of the people that depend on them for their livelihoods to the effects of ocean acidification and climate change. (…)

Full concept paper.

New edition of the “OA-ICC Highlights”, January – March 2017

The new edition of the “OA-ICC Highlights” summarizes the the project’s main activities and achievements over the period January – March 2017. The information is structured around the OA-ICC three major areas of work: science, capacity building and communication. Links to the project’s main resources and an explanatory video on their use are also provided.

The “OA-ICC Highlights” is a quarterly newsletter and all previous editions can be viewed here.

Impacts of climate change on fish and shellfish in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

The commercially important fish and shellfish of Caribbean SIDS have been considered in four groups based on environment and following the typical division of fishery groups used in this region.

There is a dearth of research and long-term datasets on the impacts of climate change on Caribbean marine environments and the important fishery resources. Most research to date has been outside of the Caribbean and has examined the impacts of one or two stressors in short-term ex situ experiments which are unlikely to accurately reflect the true complexity of long-term in situ impacts of climate change in the region. There is a need to consider the combined effects of climate change stressors (direct and indirect) on both individuals and ecosystems, together with the synergistic effects of other chronic anthropogenic stressors in the region.

We consider the reef-associated shallow shelf group to be the most vulnerable of the four fishery groups given: 1) the already apparent negative climate change impacts on their critical habitats; 2) the overexploited state of most reef-associated fishery stocks; 3) the already degraded state of their nearshore habitats as a result of other anthropogenic activities; and 4) their biphasic life history, requiring the ability to settle in specific benthic nursery habitat from a pelagic early life stage.

We consider the most resilient group, over the short-term, to be the oceanic pelagic species that generally show fewer negative responses to the climate change stressors given that they: 1) are highly mobile with generally good acid-base regulation; 2) have an entirely pelagic lifecycle; 3) have less vulnerable reproductive strategies (i.e. they have extended spawning seasons and over broad areas); and 4) are generally exposed to fewer or less severe anthropogenic stressors.

This summary is provided with the following important caveat: “Any attempt to report on what has already happened to fish and shellfish resources in the Caribbean, based on direct evidence, will be strongly biased by the fact that there is a lack of monitoring and directed research examining fish and shellfish species-level impacts of climate change in this region. As such, any conclusions drawn from direct evidence alone will likely misrepresent the true nature and extent of the climate change impacts on the coastal and marine fish and shellfish resources within the Caribbean to date.”

Continue reading ‘Impacts of climate change on fish and shellfish in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’

Impacts of physical environments in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Temperature – sea surface temperature has risen by more than 1 °C over the last 100 years. Future temperature rises will have impacts on hurricanes, rainfall, coral reefs and wider marine ecosystems.

Hurricanes – The IPCC (IPCC AR5 WG1) found strong evidence for an increase in the frequency and intensity of the strongest tropical hurricanes since the 1970s in the North Atlantic.

El Niño- Understanding the influence of the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon on Caribbean’s marine environment and timescales of variability is key to understanding how climate has been changing; projecting these relationships and ENSO itself into the future becomes vital to understand the fingerprint of global warming in the region.

Precipitation – there are a wide range of projections for future precipitation change in the area with some models finding increases in the coming century while most suggest a drier future for the region.

Ocean surface aragonite saturation state (Ωarg) has declined by around 3% in the Caribbean region relative to pre-industrial levels.

Climate variability – the Caribbean region needs a smaller increase in temperature for its conditions to become distinct (climate emergence) from the envelope of climate variability over the last hundred years, compared with the rest of the world.

Continue reading ‘Impacts of physical environments in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’

Impacts of ocean acidification in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Oceans have absorbed one third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released to the atmosphere from human activities causing the seawater pH to decrease by 0.1 units since the Industrial Revolution.

There is certainty that ocean acidification caused by anthropogenic activities is currently in progress and will increase in accord with rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. There is medium confidence that these changes with significantly impact marine ecosystems.

Throughout the Caribbean small islands, ocean acidification effects could be exacerbated due to local processes within coastal zones. Ocean surface aragonite saturation state (Ωarg) has declined by around 3% in the Caribbean region relative to pre-industrial levels potentially already impacting tropical marine calcifying organisms. In addition to the effect on living organisms, ocean acidification is likely to diminish the structural integrity of coral reefs through reduced skeletal density, loss of calcium carbonate, and dissolution of high-Mg carbonate cements which help to bind the reef. This would make coastal areas of the Caribbean small islands increasingly more vulnerable to the action of waves and storm surge. This is likely to have knock-on effects to the tourism sector, fisheries and coastal infrastructure.

More studies about the present and projected impacts of ocean acidification on Caribbean small islands are necessary in order to evaluate alternative adaptive strategies accounting for the different island’s environmental, socioeconomic, and political settings.

Continue reading ‘Impacts of ocean acidification in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’

Impacts of climate change on coral in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

Coral reefs are integral to life in the Caribbean – providing protection from storms, sustaining national economies and livelihoods through tourism and fishing, and supporting culture, recreation and biodiversity conservation. Over a decade ago, their value was estimated at US$3.1 – 4.6 billion each year.

Climate change is already impacting coral reefs in the Caribbean, through coral bleaching, disease outbreaks, ocean acidification and physical damage from stronger hurricanes. Coral beaching is the most visible, wide-spread and iconic manifestation of climate change on reefs, with major events in the Caribbean in 1998, 2010 and 2015/16. The extent of bleaching and associated mortality varies by location and event, but has resulted in some mortality. Coral disease has already significantly altered the community composition of reefs in the Caribbean, and is projected to result in increasing frequency of outbreaks as seas warm. The lack of a centralized database to coordinate reef monitoring information, hampers efforts to measure these effects.

Ocean acidification is a direct chemical result of increased carbon dioxide, but it has a variety of different responses in different reef organisms. Corals are the brick foundations of the reef, with crustose coralline algae as their mortar. Both these critical functional groups are already being affected by the reduced pH of surface water, making it more difficult to calcify and grow.

Future impacts are expected to follow and accelerate on these trends.

By 2040–2043 projections are for the onset of annual severe bleaching, which would likely result in significant coral mortality. Disease outbreaks are predicted to become annual events several years earlier. Projections for future ocean acidification result in ocean carbonate saturation levels potentially dropping below those required to sustain coral reef accretion by 2050. Cutting emissions in CO2 (within RCP6.0) would buy many coral reefs a couple of decades more time before the worst impacts occur, but it delays rather than mitigates the threats posed to coral reefs by acidification and bleaching (Maynard et al, 2016).

National leaders of the Caribbean need to adamantly fight for CO2 emissions reductions, and ensure their reef management agencies take all precautionary measures needed to reduce local stress on their reefs to buy them additional time and resiliency potential for withstanding the stress of climate change.

Continue reading ‘Impacts of climate change on coral in the coastal and marine environments of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS)’

Kon-Tiki2 expedition 2015-2016: scientific cruise report

The Kon-Tiki2 Expedition was partly an anthropogenic exploration and partly an interdisciplinary oceanic and atmospheric research expedition. As a research expedition it was unique for three reasons: 1) The type of vessel used, 2) the timing of the expedition, and 3) the geographical location. The scientific program was run onboard the ancient design balsa rafts, powered by solar power only, with almost no possibility of stopping the raft, during a year with the strongest El Niño recorded in human history, in the midst of the center of that El Niño, namely in the area between Peru, Easter Island and the Chilean mid-latitudinal coast.

The scientific expedition planned and organized as a cooperation between the NIVA and NTNU in Norway. It was divided in two legs: the transect from Peru to Easter island and from Easter Island until the expedition concluded with the organized evacuation of the rafts. Instruments were brought on board the rafts and procedures were specifically developed for this cruise to study 1) climate change and ocean acidification, 2) marine litter, 3) El Niño and operational weather forecasting and 4) marine life.

The rafts were built following the designs of archeological studies on an Ecuadorian maritime culture known as the Manteno. They were built in Peru, with help from volunteers from all over the world as well as from the national Peruvian Navy. Building efforts were delayed by logistic issues, but Leg 1 departed Callao on November 7th 2015 and reached the Easter Island as planned 6 weeks later, on December 19th 2015. After a change of crew and a full overhaul of the rafts and equipment in Easter Island, Leg 2 departed Easter Island January 6 and ended March 17 2016.

The crew was multinational, gender-mixed, synergetic and multidisciplinary experienced. Each raft on each leg had 7 members on board. Only four members were present during both legs. There was a one scientist on board on each leg representing either of the organizing institutions.

Both rafts were instrumented for research. Each had an electrical installation with capacity calculated according to the payload of instruments that would be operated from it. Wind was the main source of energy to transport the vessels while photovoltaic cells transformed solar into electric energy for the electronics onboard.

The sensor payloads can be classified into three categories: atmospheric, oceanographic and ecological. Optical sensors to measure light, together with physical sensors to measure atmospheric conditions were combined with crew observations to describe the meteorological situation in the raft. A combination of echosounders and cameras were used to describe the macrofauna biodiversity present around the rafts. DNA and Chlorophyll a filtering aimed to study the microdiversity. The physical parameters like temperature, salinity, pH, levels of carbon dioxide described the climatic conditions in the region were the cruise sailed. Finally, both conventional and state-of-the-art technology were used to observe macro and micro plastics in this remote area of the world oceans.

Currently, the material collected on the cruise is subject of analysis in different laboratories. Kon-Tiki2, due to its unique nature, has been the subject of interest to a wide range of audiences. In addition to the general scientific interest, the expedition has given a much louder voice to the oceans than any regular research expedition could have given. For instance, the expedition coincided with the Climate Summit in Paris in December 2015 (COP21), a coincidence that we utilized to its fullest. The outreach efforts of the expedition participants have raised awareness about the science as well as about the expeditions sponsors. Most importantly, it has promoted cultural awareness across many state borders.

The Kon-Tiki2 Expedition combined science with adventure and challenge. Its organization was not simple, however, the outcome is of highest value, both from a professional scientific point of view, for the originator and sponsors of the expedition idea and for each and every project participant.

Kon-Tiki2 aimed to double-down on Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki voyage (1947) by sailing two rafts from South America to Polynesia and then back. No one has done this in modern history. Kon-Tiki2 was an unparalleled voyage of survival, science and exploration. Although one of the strongest El Niño ever recorded stopped us from sailing all the way to South America, Kon-Tiki2 substantiates the ancient Pacific pathway for both Polynesians and South Americans. We know both cultures had rafts. Polynesians probably used their superior double hulled canoe for exploration and rafts for migrations. Kon-tiki2 showed how Polynesians could have sailed to South America and back, and how South Americans could have done the same in the opposite direction.

Continue reading ‘Kon-Tiki2 expedition 2015-2016: scientific cruise report’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book