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What is ocean acidification? Find out how research at Plymouth is tackling this global carbon dioxide problem (text & video)

Explore the science behind falling ocean pH and the impact this has on marine ecosystem balance

Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed rapidly into the ocean.

It reacts with water molecules (H2O) to form carbonic acid (H2CO3). This compound then breaks down into a hydrogen ion (H+) and bicarbonate (HCO3). These hydrogen ions decrease seawater pH.

In chemical terms, ocean acidfication is described like this:

CO2 + H2O → (H+) + (HCO3)

The rising CO2 problem

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s, the rise of fossil fuel-powered machinery has been the catalyst for the emission of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.

Carbon dioxide levels have now risen by 30 per cent since the Industrial Revolution.

Scientists now know that about a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions have been absorbed by the oceans.

Monitoring shows that burning fossil fuels has caused unprecedented changes to ocean chemistry due to ocean uptake of millions of tonnes of CO2 each year.

Falling pH

Surface ocean waters are alkaline; on average pH 8.1. But because a quarter of human CO2 emissions are taken up by surface seawater this could drop to pH 7.8 by the end of the century, lower than at any time in human history.

The change in ocean acidity will not make it more dangerous for us to swim or surf in.

Seas are not actually going to be acidic – they will still be more alkaline than tap water.

Ocean acidification is happening rapidly worldwide. We have shown that this has knock-on effects that degrade marine ecosystems and impact fishing industries and food supplies. Plans are in place to ensure that University of Plymouth research is strategically aligned to inform the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) and embed solutions that slow ocean degradation and build recovery of our coastal resources.

Continue reading ‘What is ocean acidification? Find out how research at Plymouth is tackling this global carbon dioxide problem (text & video)’

Coastal Management Journal – Ocean acidification: insight for policy and integrated management

Today the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, alongside several U.S. state partners released a special issue of Coastal Management Journal, “Ocean Acidification: Insight for Policy and Integrated Management,” published online by Taylor and Francis.

The special issue examines opportunities and challenges facing U.S. states in responding to ocean acidification (OA) and includes 42 authors representing government and non-government institutions across nine states.

Many of the authors are resource managers on the front lines of addressing OA, using a variety of strategies to assess information needs, develop data sets, build partnerships inside and outside state government and formulate approaches that link ocean change science to management at local and regional scales.

Impacts of climate change and increasing OA pose significant risk to states, communities and economies that enjoy and depend on thriving fisheries and shellfish production related to commercial, subsistence or cultural practices.  Although the issue consolidates current and emerging U.S. state policy directives and practices, local and international actors may benefit from lessons learned and case studies presented—further advancing subnational and national efforts to address climate and ocean change.

“Lessons learned and partnerships forged at a state level have strengthened regional alignment and international vision for action,” said Dr. Caren Braby, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife on the special issue’s contributors.

The issue is comprised of four peer-reviewed articles and two essays, including:

  • Opportunities for State Governments and In-Region Partners to Address Ocean Acidification Through Management and Policy Frameworks (Turner, et al.)
  • Understanding and Advancing Natural Resource Management in the Context of Changing Ocean Conditions (Keil, et al.)
  • Monitoring Ocean Acidification Within State Borders:  Lessons Learned from Washington State (Gonski, et al.)
  • Capacity Building to Address Ocean Change: Organizing Across Communities of Place, Practice and Governance to Achieve Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Resilience in Oregon (Essay by Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.)
  • Community Science for Coastal Acidification Monitoring and Research (Gassett, et al.)
  • International and Domestic Leadership by U.S. States on Ocean Acidification (Essay by Ocean Conservancy.)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Ocean and Cryosphere in Changing Climate (IPCC, 2019) has emphasized that climate change is already having major impacts on our ocean. The report warns that ocean acidification is “virtually certain” to continue to be exacerbated by carbon emissions, with a high emissions path posing the most significant risks for severe and large changes.  The Paris Agreement brought into force by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides a framework for 195 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

It is against this backdrop that subnational governments, including U.S. states, are sharing information and responding to climate and ocean change by setting ambitious goals and targets of their own to mitigate, adapt and build resiliency.

“State have the advantage of being able to act quickly, innovate and experiment with programs, investments and pilot projects.  They are typically the primary regulator—or strong influencer—in implementing most ocean-based climate solutions and responses,” said Whitney Berry, Senior Manager of Climate Policy, Ocean Conservancy.

For more information, contact Jessie Turner at Jturner@cascadiapolicy.com

Continue reading ‘Coastal Management Journal – Ocean acidification: insight for policy and integrated management’

AR6 Climate change 2021: the physical science basis

The Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report addresses the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change, bringing together the latest advances in climate science, and combining multiple lines of evidence from paleoclimate, observations, process understanding, and global and regional climate simulations.

Disclaimer: The Summary for Policymakers (SPM) is the approved version from the 14th session of Working Group I and 54th Session of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and remains subject to final copy-editing and layout.

The Technical Summary (TS), the full Report Chapters, the Annexes and the Supplementary Materials are the Final Government Distribution versions, and remain subject to revisions following the SPM approval, corrigenda, copy-editing, and layout.

Full report

CHANGING by Alisa Singer
Changing by the artist Alisa Singer
“As we witness our planet transforming around us we watch, listen, measure … respond.”

Continue reading ‘AR6 Climate change 2021: the physical science basis’

JPI Oceans

JPI Oceans is an intergovernmental platform that strives to increase the impact of national investments in marine and maritime research and innovation.  By joining forces, JPI Oceans focuses on long-term collaboration between EU Member States, Associated Countries and international partners. The platform provides its member countries with a shared voice, strategic agenda and action plan to address complex ocean-related societal challenges that cannot be solved at national level.

JPI Oceans. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

Future Earth Coasts

Future Earth Coasts is a Global Research Project of Future Earth, a platform for translating sustainability knowledge into action that includes a number of United Nations agencies, intergovernmental bodies and organisations such as the International Council for Science.

Future Earth Coasts. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

University of Alaska Fairbanks OARC – Ocean Acidification Research Center

Ocean acidification (OA) is the result of anthropogenic increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide that is later absorbed by the ocean. This change in ocean chemistry makes the global oceans more acidic. Concerns over increasing acidity in Alaska and how this phenomenon will impact Alaska’s Blue Economy spurred the creation of the Ocean Acidification Research Center (OARC) within the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (CFOS) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

University of Alaska Fairbanks – College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

The Commonwealth Blue Charter – “Shared ocean, shared values”

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is an agreement by all 54 Commonwealth countries, adopted at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April 2018. In the Blue Charter, Commonwealth countries agree to actively cooperate to solve ocean-related problems and meet commitments for sustainable ocean development, with particular emphasis on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

The Commonwealth Blue Charter. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

ARGO

Argo is an international program that collects information from inside the ocean using a fleet of robotic instruments that drift with the ocean currents and move up and down between the surface and a mid-water level. Each instrument (float) spends almost all its life below the surface. The name Argo was chosen because the array of floats works in partnership with the Jason earth observing satellites that measure the shape of the ocean surface. (In Greek mythology Jason sailed on his ship the Argo in search of the golden fleece).

Argo. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

Biogeochemical Argo

An extension of the Argo program to include biogeochemical observations

Biogeochemical Argo. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

GOOS – The Global Ocean Observing System

The Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) is a sustained collaborative system of ocean observations, encompassing in situ networks, satellite systems, governments, UN agencies and individual scientists. We are organized around a series of components undertaking requirements assessment, observing implementation, innovation through projects, and a core team

GOOS. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

Southern Cross University: Centre for Coastal Biogeochemistry

The Centre undertakes research on the Global Change issues of nutrient over-enrichment (Eutrophication), ocean acidification, climate change, greenhouse gases and hypoxia.

Southern Cross University. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

WOAC – Washington Ocean Acidification Center

The Washington Ocean Acidification Center was established in 2013 following the recommendation of the Washington state Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification.

WOAC. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

Foras na Mara Marine Institute

The Marine Institute was set up under the Marine Institute Act 1991: to undertake, to coordinate, to promote and to assist in marine research and development and to provide such services related to research and development, that in the opinion of the Institute, will promote economic development and create employment and protect the marine environment.

Foras na Mara Marine Institute. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

MarineBio

Since 1998, The MarineBio Conservation Society (MarineBio) has been a nonprofit volunteer marine conservation and science education group working online together to educate the world about ocean life, marine biology, marine conservation, and to provide a sea ethic that we should all attempt to follow.

MarineBio. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

Woods Hole: What is Ocean Acidification?

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when humans began burning coal in large quantities, the world’s ocean water has gradually become more acidic. Like global warming, this phenomenon, which is known as ocean acidification, is a direct consequence of increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

MCCIP – Marine Climate Change Impacts Partneship

The United Kingdom Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) brings together scientists, government, its agencies and NGOs to provide coordinated advice on climate change impacts and adaptation around our coast and in our seas.

We collate and synthesise evidence on climate change impacts and adaptation in a timely, impartial and independent manner, and disseminate this information to stakeholders.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

Pacific Islands – Climate Adaptation Science Center

Observed climatic trends across the Pacific Basin, rising sea levels, increasing sea surface temperatures, shifts in ocean chemistry with increased ocean acidification, increasingly variable precipitation and wind patterns, rising air temperatures, increasing storm and cyclone intensity, and more prominent droughts, all promise growing stresses on terrestrial, coastal, and marine ecosystems, as well as on human communities. This wide, complex, intertwined spread of issues offer many challenges.

Pacific Islands – Climate Adaptation Science Center. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

EMODnet – The European Marine Observation and Data Network

The European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet) is the long-term initiative launched in 2009 by the DG MARE (EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries). EMODnet is part of the Blue Growth strategy, Marine Knowledge 2020, and its main task is to ensure that European marine data will become easily accessible, interoperable, and free of restrictions on use.
EMODnet Chemistry is focused on eutrophication, ocean acidification, contamination, and marine litter issues which are relevant to the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and to global climate change. The data have been brought together for different group of variables in seawater, sediment and biota.

EMODnet. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

OCEANA

Pollution and contaminants enter the oceans through a number of outlets: offshore oil and gas drilling, coal-burning power plants, aquaculture, mercury-based chlorine plants, plastics, marine debris and more. Once these toxins enter the environment, they can cause long-lasting damage to marine ecosystems and adversely impact wildlife and fisheries.

OCEANA. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage

Indicator assessment: ocean acidification

Currently, the ocean takes up about one quarter of global CO2 emissions from human activities. The uptake of CO2 in the sea causes ocean acidification, as the pH of sea water declines.
Ocean surface pH declined from 8.2 to below 8.1 over the industrial era as a result of an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This decline corresponds to an increase in oceanic acidity of about 30 %.

European Environment Agency, 25 June 2021. Resource.

Resource type: website

Resource format: webpage


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