Archive for the 'Newsletters and reports' Category

Integrated ocean carbon research: a summary of ocean carbon research, and vision of coordinated ocean carbon research and observations for the next decade

The Integrated Ocean Carbon Research (IOC-R) programme is a formal working group of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) that was formed in 2018 in response to the United Nations (UN) Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), “the Decade.” The IOC-R will contribute to the science elements of the overarching Implementation Plan for the Decade1. The Implementation Plan is a high-level framework to guide actions by which ocean science can more effectively deliver its contribution and co-development with other entities to achieve the societal outcomes outlined in the Decade plan and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the UN.

Continue reading ‘Integrated ocean carbon research: a summary of ocean carbon research, and vision of coordinated ocean carbon research and observations for the next decade’

Climate change and ocean acidification – a looming crisis for Europe’s cetaceans

Climate-related changes, including increased sea surface temperature (SST), decreasing ice cover, rising sea levels and changes in ocean circulation, salinity, rainfall patterns, storm frequency, wind speed, wave conditions and climate patterns are all affecting cetaceans (Learmonth et al., 2006; Silber et al., 2016). Additionally, an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) being absorbed by seawater is leading to ocean acidification, which – in turn – amplifies the adverse effects of global warming (Pace et al., 2015; IPCC, 2018).

Understanding the mechanisms through which climate change impacts any given species is a challenge, and scientists are increasingly focused on trying to predict consequences (Simmonds, 2016). The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has held a series of workshops about climate change and has highlighted the need to understand the relationship between cetacean distribution and measurable climatic indices such as SST (IWC, 2010).

The impacts of climate change on cetaceans can be direct, such as thermal stress, or indirect, such as changes in prey availability (Learmonth et al., 2006). Effects can lead to changes in distribution, abundance and migration patterns, the presence of competitors and/or predators, community structure, timing of breeding, reproductive success and survival. Other potential outcomes of climate change could be more dramatic, such as the exacerbation of epizootics (Simmonds, 2016). The incidence of harmful algal blooms may also increase as a result of climate change. The Scientific Committee of the IWC has recently looked at this topic and concluded that the toxins from the blooms have resulted in an increasing risk to cetacean health at the individual and population levels (IWC, 2018).

Human activities have caused approximately 1.0oC of global warming above pre-industrial levels (IPCC, 2018) and it is estimated that global warming will reach 1.5oC between 2030 and 2052. In the last 50 years the world’s oceans have absorbed more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system (IPCC, 2019). The rate of ocean warming has more than doubled since 1993 and marine heatwaves have become common and more intense.

See link for full report: Report_UNDER-PRESSURE_need-to-protect-whales-and-dolphins-in-European-waters_OC.pdf (oceancare.org)

Continue reading ‘Climate change and ocean acidification – a looming crisis for Europe’s cetaceans’

A critical analysis of the ocean effects of carbon dioxide removal via direct air and ocean capture – is it a safe and sustainable solution?

Executive Summary

Catalyzed by the 2015 Paris Agreement, there are numerous initiatives for policies and sciencebased solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to achieve net-zero emissions internationally. President Biden plans to achieve net-zero in the United States no later than 2050. Despite forward-moving initiatives, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently reported that two-thirds of the countries that have pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have committed to levels that remain insufficient in meeting vital international climate targets [1]. The overarching goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be accomplished by transitioning to a more equitable and environmentally just energy system that reduces pollution while meeting global food, transportation, and energy needs. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) is at the forefront of policy change, investments, and technology to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and the ocean. We must respond quickly, yet carefully, to the considerable pressure to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere even as we transition away from burning fossil fuels and other anthropogenic CO2-emitting activities. There are a number of emerging technologies based on direct air capture (DAC) and direct ocean capture (DOC) which use machines to extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere or the ocean and move the CO2 underground to storage facilities or utilize the CO2 to enhance oil recovery from commercially-depleted wells. These technological interventions are in contrast to nature-based solutions. These include restoring mangroves and other coastal and marine ecosystems, regenerative agriculture, and reforestation to remove and store carbon dioxide in plants and soils. These nature-based strategies can offer multiple community benefits, biodiversity benefits, and long-term carbon storage, a global benefit.2 This report mainly focuses on the viability and consequences, including potential harm to the environment and livelihoods of the direct air capture and direct ocean capture approaches.

Continue reading ‘A critical analysis of the ocean effects of carbon dioxide removal via direct air and ocean capture – is it a safe and sustainable solution?’

Climate change impacts on corals in the UK overseas territories of BIOT and the Pitcairn Islands

BIOT

The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) consists of five atolls of low-lying islands, including the largest atoll in the world, Great Chagos Bank, and a number of submerged atolls and banks. Diego Garcia is the only inhabited island. The BIOT Marine Protected Area (MPA) was designatedin 2010. It covers the entire maritime zone and coastal waters, an approximate area of 640,000 km2. The marine environment is rich and diverse, attracting sea birds, sharks, cetaceans and sea turtles and with extensive seagrass and coral reef habitats. It includes the endangered Chagos brain coral (Ctenella chagius), an endemic massive coral unique to BIOT. BIOT reefs have suffered extensive bleaching and mortality, and they remain vulnerable to current and future climate change and other pressures, including:

Bleaching
The heavy mortality has been caused by recurrent marine heatwaves since the 1970s. Reefs have not yet recovered from the most severe bleaching in 2016 and 2017, with increasingly severe events expected. Deeper fore-reefs may act as refuges, but those colonies are likely to be more sensitive to temperature change. Limiting other pressures will not guarantee resilience to future bleaching.

Ocean acidification
There has been a low impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs so far, but when combined with future bleaching therisk of decalcification and erosion will increase. Under high emissions scenarios, BIOT is projected to become less suitable for corals by the end of the century.

Continue reading ‘Climate change impacts on corals in the UK overseas territories of BIOT and the Pitcairn Islands’

Global climate indicators: ocean heat content, acidification, deoxygenation and blue carbon

WMO has published annual State of the Global Climate reports since 1993. In 2020, it published a five-year climate report for 2015 to 2019 incorporating data and analyses from the State of the Global Climate across this period. The initial purpose of the annual report was to inform Members on climate trends, extreme events and impacts. In 2016, the purpose was expanded to include summaries on key climate indicators to inform delegates in Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The summaries cover the atmosphere, land, ocean and cryosphere, synthesizing the past year’s most recent data analysis. There are four ocean related climate indicators: ocean heat content, sea level, sea ice and ocean acidification.

This article highlights the heat content summary from the State of the Global Climate 2020, ocean acidification, deoxygenation and blue carbon, covered in the WMO State of the Global Climate 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Ocean Heat Content

Ocean heat content measurements back in the 1940s relied mostly on shipboard techniques, which constrained the availability of subsurface temperature observations at global scale and at depth (Abraham et al., 2013). Global-scale estimates of ocean heat content are thus often limited to the period from 1960 onwards, and to a vertical integration from the surface down to a depth of 700 metres (m). With the deployment of the Argo network of autonomous profiling floats, which reached target coverage in 2006, it is now possible to routinely measure ocean heat content changes down to a depth of 2000 m (Roemmich et al., 2019) (Figure 1).

Continue reading ‘Global climate indicators: ocean heat content, acidification, deoxygenation and blue carbon’

How to save the oceans and fight climate change

There is one good thing that has come out of Covid. With no tourists causing extra wastewater pollution, sunbathing or swimming off beaches, we are witness to the health of coral reefs and coastal marine ecosystems recovering all around the world. There are a number of reasons for this, and one of them is particularly surprising. We don’t immediately think of cosmetics or sunscreens being toxic to marine life, but the reality is remarkably different.

Many of our cosmetics contain an ingredient called oxybenzone. It is used in products to protect us from the damaging effects of UV light from the sun. Sunblock is probably the wrong name for this cosmetic ingredient, because oxybenzone does not block UV light, it just changes it to a longer, less energetic wavelength that is safer for human skin. But, in changing the wavelength free radicals are released that are really dangerous, especially to corals, algae and plankton, and to a lesser degree, people. The chemical itself is relatively non-toxic, but the way in which it reacts with sunlight, plastic particles and nature makes it just about the most toxic chemical on the planet.

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Science in brief: OMAI – assessing acidification in the Baltic

Monitoring and scientific basis

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions will – unless reduced – move the Baltic Sea towards a state where acidification leads to changes in species composition, potentially influencing ecosystem functioning. Model simulations indicate that acidification in the Baltic Sea generally follows the same trajectory as the open oceans, with a pH decline of 0.6 units by year 2200 in the worst-case scenario. The Baltic Sea is highly influenced by its catchment areas, which means that acidification trends are generally more complex than in the open ocean. Improved coverage of acidification monitoring is necessary to broaden the understanding of current trends, improve the capacity to predict future changes, and as an added value provide insight into productivity patterns and eutrophication trends. An indicator for acidification in the Baltic Sea is currently under development.

Continue reading ‘Science in brief: OMAI – assessing acidification in the Baltic’

Report on the ocean acidification crisis in Massachusetts

Since the industrial revolution, the world’s oceans have become increasingly acidic. The main drivers of ocean acidification in Massachusetts are (1) global increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide resulting from anthropogenic emissions, and (2) local nutrient pollution leading to the eutrophication of coastal waters.

Many marine species that evolved under less acidic conditions are threatened by ocean acidification, including some that are critical to the Massachusetts economy. Species that are both economically important and vulnerable to acidification include mollusks such as the sea scallop and eastern oyster.

Massachusetts will be disproportionately affected by ocean acidification due to the relative importance of its coastal economies and environments.

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Futureproofing the green-lipped mussel aquaculture industry against ocean acidification

Two mitigation strategies – waste shell and aeration – were tested in field experiments to see how effective they are at mitigating acidification around mussel farms. This report outlines the results and recommendations from this research. 


Primary results:

  • The inner Firth of Thames currently experiences the lowest seasonal pH of the sites monitored, with a daily minimum of 7.84 (7.79–7.96) in autumn, with short-term (15-minute) pH minima as low as 7.2. Time-series data in the inner and outer Firth of Thames, and also on a mussel farm in the western Firth, show episodic declines in carbonate saturation to the critical carbonate saturation state ΩAR = 1.0 at which solid aragonite (the form of carbonate in mussel shells) will start to dissolve. Consequently, mussels in the Firth of Thames experience episodic corrosive conditions.
  • The mean pH in the Marlborough Sounds region is projected to decrease by 0.15–0.4 by 2100 depending on future emission scenario. The corresponding decline of 0.5–1.25 in the saturation state of aragonite (ΩAR), results in the critical threshold of ΩAR =1 being reached by 2100 under the worst-case scenario. These projections are based only on future CO2 emission scenarios and do not consider other coastal sources of acidity in coastal waters which may also alter in the future.

Continue reading ‘Futureproofing the green-lipped mussel aquaculture industry against ocean acidification’

Ecosystem status report of the California current for 2019–20: a summary of ecosystem indicators compiled by the California current integrated ecosystem assessment team (CCIEA)


This document is an expansion of the ecosystem status report (ESR) provided by the California Current Integrated Ecosystem Assessment Team (CCIEA Team) to the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) in March 2020 (Harvey et al. 2020). The CCIEA Team provides ESRs annually to PFMC, as one component of the overall CCIEA goal of providing quantitative, integrative science tools, products, and synthesis in support of a more holistic (ecosystem-based) approach to managing marine resources in the California Current. The ESR features a suite of indicators codeveloped by the CCIEA Team and PFMC. The suite of indicators was initially identified in 2009, and has been refined and updated over the years to best capture the current state of the California Current ecosystem (CCE). The analyses in this document represent our best understanding of environmental, ecological, and socioeconomic conditions in this ecosystem roughly through late 2019 and early 2020. Because the time required to process data varies for different indicators, some of the resulting time series are slightly more up-to-date than others. The time series for some indicators (snowpack, sea lion reproduction and pup growth, seabirds, fishery landings, fishery revenue, and nonfishing human activities) have been updated since the March 2020 report to PFMC (Harvey et al. 2020).

Continue reading ‘Ecosystem status report of the California current for 2019–20: a summary of ecosystem indicators compiled by the California current integrated ecosystem assessment team (CCIEA)’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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