Posts Tagged 'Policy'

(Re)framing ocean acidification in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC) and Paris Agreement

Ocean acidification is most frequently framed by the scientific community as a concurrent threat to climate change, rather than an effect of it. This separation of the two phenomena has long been deemed as a way of garnering heightened policy attention for ocean acidification rather than having it bound up in the often contested politics of climate change. This effort, however, appears to have resulted in the inadvertent placing of ocean acidification outside of the mandate of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This has created a significant gap in the global governance of this issue with no multilateral agreement understood as having jurisdiction over the mitigation of rising ocean acidity. For these reasons this paper argues that an alternative framing of ocean acidification as an effect of climate change is warranted. This would include ocean acidification in the core obligations of the Convention, thereby filling the mitigation governance gap and avoiding perverse implementation outcomes. It is contended that interpreting the UNFCCC in this way is more consistent with its objective and purpose than the existing interpretations that place ocean acidification beyond the remit of the Convention.

Continue reading ‘(Re)framing ocean acidification in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on climate change (UNFCCC) and Paris Agreement’

Ocean acidification refugia in variable environments

Climate change refugia in the terrestrial biosphere are areas where species are protected from global environmental change and arise from natural heterogeneity in landscapes and climate. Within the marine realm, ocean acidification, or the global decline in seawater pH, remains a pervasive threat to organisms and ecosystems. Natural variability in seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) chemistry, however, presents an opportunity to identify ocean acidification refugia (OAR) for marine species. Here, we review the literature to examine the impacts of variable CO2 chemistry on biological responses to ocean acidification and develop a framework of definitions and criteria that connects current OAR research to management goals. Under the concept of managing vulnerability, the most likely mechanisms by which OAR can mitigate ocean acidification impacts are by reducing exposure to harmful conditions or enhancing adaptive capacity. While local management options, such as OAR, show some promise, they present unique challenges, and reducing global anthropogenic CO2 emissions must remain a priority.

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Professional development training in ocean acidification: a case study of marine resource managers

Ocean acidification (OA) is the result of increasing concentrations of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, leading to a suite of alterations to specific parameters of ocean chemistry, which can negatively impact many marine organisms and ecosystems. Understanding how to measure and monitor the chemistry of OA will require specialized education and training, which may be important for the marine resource managers called upon to devise management strategies in response to the impacts of OA. We can best serve these OA ‘first responders’ by making this information more accessible via appropriate educational products that enhance their learning and empower effective management decision-making. For this study, we designed, developed, and piloted a professional training program on measuring and monitoring OA chemistry for marine resource managers in the Pacific Northwest. A companion survey was also developed in conjunction to assess outcomes in learning and professional behavior. Our participants demonstrated learning gains in key OA chemistry concepts, as well as changes in factors that indicated behavioral change. We present a training framework and its associated resources that science educators can use to deliver comparable training programs or build educational products to aid informal adult audiences in understanding and interpreting OA chemistry.

Continue reading ‘Professional development training in ocean acidification: a case study of marine resource managers’

The Great Barrier Reef: vulnerabilities and solutions in the face of ocean acidification

As living carbonate-based structures, coral reefs are highly vulnerable to ocean acidification. The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the largest continuous coral reef system in the world. Its economic, social, and icon assets are valued at AU$56 billion (Deloitte Access Economics, 2017), owing to its vast biodiversity and services related to commercial and recreational fisheries, shoreline protection, and reef-related tourism and recreation. Ocean acidification poses a significant risk to these ecological and socioeconomic services, threatening not only the structural foundation of the GBR but the livelihoods of reef-dependent sectors of society. To assess the vulnerabilities of the GBR to ocean acidification, we review the characteristics of the GBR and the current valuation and factors affecting potential losses across three major areas of socioeconomic concern: fisheries, shoreline protection, and reef-related tourism and recreation. We then discuss potential solutions, both conventional and unconventional, for mitigating ocean acidification impacts on the GBR and propose a suite of actions that would help assess and increase the region’s preparedness for the effects of ocean acidification.

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Building the knowledge-to-action pipeline in North America: connecting ocean acidification research and actionable decision support

Ocean acidification (OA) describes the progressive decrease in the pH of seawater and other cascading chemical changes resulting from oceanic uptake of atmospheric carbon. These changes can have important implications for marine ecosystems, creating risk for commercial industries, subsistence communities, cultural practices, and recreation. Characterizing the extent of acidification and predicting the ramifications for marine and freshwater resources and ecosystem services are critical to national and international climate mitigation discussions and to local communities that rely on these resources. Based on critical grassroots connections between scientists, stakeholders and decision makers, “Knowledge-to-Action” networks for ocean acidification issues have formed at local, regional and international scales to take action. Here, we review three examples of North American groups elevating the issue of ocean acidification at these three levels. They each focus on developing practicable, implementable steps to mitigate causes, to adapt to unavoidable change, and to build resilience to changing ocean conditions in the marine environment and coastal communities. While these first steps represent critical efforts in protecting ecosystems and economies from the risks posed by ocean acidification, some challenges remain. Sensitivity and risk to OA varies by region, species and ecosystems; priorities for action can vary between multiple and conflicting partners; evidence-based strategies for OA risk mitigation are still in the early stages; and gaps remain between scientific research and actionable decision-maker support products. However, the scaled networks profiled here have proven to be adept at identifying and addressing these barriers to action. In the future, it will be critical to expand funding for food web impact studies and development of decision support tools, and to maintain the connections between scientists and marine resource users to build resilience to ocean acidification impacts.

Continue reading ‘Building the knowledge-to-action pipeline in North America: connecting ocean acidification research and actionable decision support’

An enhanced ocean acidification observing network: from people to technology to data synthesis and information exchange

A successful integrated ocean acidification (OA) observing network must include (1) scientists and technicians from a range of disciplines from physics to chemistry to biology to technology development; (2) government, private, and intergovernmental support; (3) regional cohorts working together on regionally specific issues; (4) publicly accessible data from the open ocean to coastal to estuarine systems; (5) close integration with other networks focusing on related measurements or issues including the social and economic consequences of OA; and (6) observation-based informational products useful for decision making such as management of fisheries and aquaculture. The Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON), a key player in this vision, seeks to expand and enhance geographic extent and availability of coastal and open ocean observing data to ultimately inform adaptive measures and policy action, especially in support of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. GOA-ON works to empower and support regional collaborative networks such as the Latin American Ocean Acidification Network, supports new scientists entering the field with training, mentorship, and equipment, refines approaches for tracking biological impacts, and stimulates development of lower-cost methodology and technologies allowing for wider participation of scientists. GOA-ON seeks to collaborate with and complement work done by other observing networks such as those focused on carbon flux into the ocean, tracking of carbon and oxygen in the ocean, observing biological diversity, and determining short- and long-term variability in these and other ocean parameters through space and time.

Continue reading ‘An enhanced ocean acidification observing network: from people to technology to data synthesis and information exchange’

People and the changing nature of coral reefs


• Large numbers of people in tropical regions are highly dependent on the goods and services produced by coral reef ecosystems.

• Coral reef ecosystems are under severe threat from both local and global threats, which are degrading the ecosystem services that they provide to humanity.

• Past studies have assumed that the loss of ecosystem services will lead to a proportionate impact on people.

• We argue that this is unlikely to be the case in the short-term due to the high level of adaptability illustrated by communities associated with coral reefs. Eventually, however, stress will reach levels that exhaust the capacity of people and communities to adapt.

• Data sets and analysis are sparse, however, we call for a greater focus on understanding the flexibility and adaptability of people associated with coral reefs, especially in a time of rapid global change.


Coral reefs are biodiverse and productive ecosystems but are threatened by local and global stresses. The resulting loss of coral reefs is threatening coastal food and livelihoods. Climate projections suggest that coral reefs will continue to undergo major changes even if the goals of the Paris Agreement (Dec 2015) are successfully implemented. Ecological changes include modified food webs, shifts in community structure, reduced habitat complexity, decreased fecundity and recruitment, changes to fisheries productivity/opportunity, and a shift in the carbonate budget of some ecosystems toward dissolution and erosion of calcium carbonate stocks. Broad estimates of the long-term (present value) of services provided by the ocean’s ecological assets exist and are useful in highlighting the value of reefs yet must be contextualised by how people respond under ecosystem change. The dynamic nature of the relationship between people, economies, and the environment complicates estimation of human consequences and economic outcomes of changing environmental and ecological capital. Challenges have increased given lack of baseline data and our inability to predict (with any precision) how people respond to changing coral reef conditions, especially given the variability, flexibility, and creativity shown by human communities and economies under change. Here, we explore how the changes to the three-dimensional structure of coral reefs affect benefits for people, specifically coastal protection, fisheries habitat, and tourism. Based on a review of available data and literature, we make a series of key recommendations that are required to better understanding of how global change will affect people dependent on coral reefs. These include: (1) baseline studies and frameworks for understanding human responses to climate change within complex social and ecological setting such as coral reefs, (2) better tools for exploring environmental benefits, markets, and financial systems faced by change, and (3) the integration of these insights into more effective policy making.

Continue reading ‘People and the changing nature of coral reefs’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book