Ocean acidification, often called the “evil twin of global warming”, is the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. This has a range of potentially harmful consequences for marine organisms, including affecting the growth of animal shells and exoskeletons, and contributing to coral bleaching.
Humans appear to be the culprit in the acidification process observed by scientists in recent years, because of the way we burn fossil fuels. To halt this very unsustainable development, initiatives have been emerging across the globe. Here is our list of the top-five websites for getting up to speed on this issue … and contributing to action to address it.
The Ocean Foundation is a US-based foundation created in 2003 to support and promote organizations dedicated to reverse ocean acidification-related trends. The Foundation works with environmentally concerned donors, ranging from individuals to private foundations and governments, to grow financial resources for marine conservation projects. In 2014 the foundation formed the Ocean Acidification and Climate Action Program, a multi-sector partnership. The partnership, in turn, works with legislators in eight U.S. states to advance policies at the state level that can address this issue, as well as to further the national dialogue.
GOA-ON is an initiative originally formed by The Ocean Foundation to better understand the drivers and impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems. Its purpose is to document the status and progress of ocean acidification in open-ocean, coastal, and estuarine environments, and to provide the different types of data necessary to optimize modeling for ocean acidification. GOA-ON has three main goals:
- Improve understanding of global ocean acidification conditions
- Improve understanding of ecosystem response to ocean acidification
- Acquire and exchange data and knowledge necessary to optimize modeling for ocean acidification and its impacts
In other words, this is where to go if you want take a deeper scientific dive into the issue.
EPOCA which was launched in 2008 with the goal to advance understanding of the biological, ecological, biogeochemical and societal implications of ocean acidification. The association consists of over 160 researchers from 32 institutes and 10 European countries and coordinates with major national and international projects and programmes.
Their research is divided into four themes:
- Document the changes in ocean chemistry and the geographical distribution of marine organisms across space and time.
- Quantify the impact of ocean acidification on marine organisms and ecosystems.
- Integrate the chemical, biological and biogeochemical impacts of ocean acidification into biogeochemical, sediment and coupled ocean-climate models, via EPOCAs modelling component.
- Assess uncertainties, risks and thresholds (“tipping points”) related to ocean acidification at molecular, cellular, organismal, local and global scales.
Now that you are up to speed on the science, it’s time to check out where the action is. The International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification
This is a North American initiative to facilitate collaboration between different jurisdictions addressing the causes and effects of ocean acidification, particularly as a threat to coastal economies and ecosystems. The initiative originates from early experiences of acidification impacts, such as severe oyster hatchery losses in 2007 and 2008. Its members are primarily North American states and provinces, as well as native American Tribes and Nations, but it also include countries like France and Chile.
The Alliance members work to further five goals:
- Advance scientific understanding of ocean acidification
- Take meaningful actions to reduce causes of acidification
- Protect the environment and coastal communities from impacts of a changing ocean
- Expand public awareness and understanding of acidification, and
- Build sustained support for addressing this global problem
The next site takes you on a long journey south. The Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research is an interdisciplinary committee working with initiating, developing and coordinating international scientific research in the Antarctic region, including the Southern Ocean, and on the role of the Antarctic region in the Earth system.
The Southern Ocean appears to be particularly sensitive to the impacts of acidification. In response to the rapid changes in ocean chemistry that ocean acidification is causing there, the committee has appointed an international Action Group to upgrade our scientific understanding. The Action Group consists of an international cross-disciplinary team of ocean acidification experts representing a variety of scientific fields.
by Björn Eriksson