Impacts of Ocean Acidification

  • Makarow M
  • Ceulemans R
  • Board-esf M
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There is growing scientific evidence that, as a result of increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, absorption of CO2 by the oceans has already noticeably increased the average oceanic acidity from pre-industrial levels. This global threat requires a global response. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), continuing CO2 emissions in line with current trends could make the oceans up to 150% more acidic by 2100 than they were at the beginning of the Anthropocene. Acidification decreases the ability of the ocean to absorb additional atmospheric CO2, which implies that future CO2 emissions are likely to lead to more rapid global warming. Ocean acidification is also problematic because of its negative effects on marine ecosystems, especially marine calcifying organisms, and marine resources and services upon which human societies largely depend such as energy, water, and fisheries. For example, it is predicted that by 2100 around 70% of all cold-water corals, especially those in the higher latitudes, will live in waters undersaturated in carbonate due to ocean acidification. Recent research indicates that ocean acidification might also result in increasing levels of jellyfish in some marine ecosystems. Aside from direct effects, ocean acidification together with other global change-induced impacts such as marine and coastal pollution and the introduction of invasive alien species are likely to result in more fragile marine ecosystems, making them more vulnerable to other environmental impacts resulting from, for example, coastal deforestation and wide- scale fisheries. The Marine Board-ESF Position Paper on the Impacts of Climate Change on the European Marine and Coastal Environment – Ecosystems1 indicated that presenting ocean acidification issues to policy makers is a key issue and challenge. Indeed, as the consequences of ocean acidification are expected to emerge rapidly and drastically, but are often not well known or are completely unknown, a strategic workshop was organised by the ESF Standing Committee for Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences (LESC) in cooperation with the ESF EUROCORES Programme EuroCLIMATE. The aim was to address the issue of the impacts of ocean acidification on both the natural and socio- economic systems, and to identify the gaps of knowledge in this field. The present Science Policy Briefing resulting from this strategic workshop has undergone external international peer review and has been approved by both the Marine Board-ESF and LESC. The ESF considers this Science Policy Briefing on the Impacts of Ocean Acidification an important step towards raising awareness amongst a wide range of research actors, policy makers and funding agencies. Taking into account the range of priorities and key areas of research requiring action at the pan-European level, a series of recommendations for European actions have been drawn up under the following five headings: (i) increase understanding and improve quantification of the organismal and ecosystem responses to ocean acidification; (ii) include the human dimension by increasing collaboration and integration efforts between natural and social sciences; (iii) rationalise, improve and focus monitoring and data gathering, management, processing and accessibility efforts; (iv) increase dissemination, outreach and capacity-building efforts, in particular related to communicating ocean acidification to stakeholders (policy makers, research funders, public, media, etc.); and (v) improve coordination of ocean acidification research and collaboration both at the national and international levels.

Author-supplied keywords

  • august 2009
  • ence policy briefing

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  • Marja Makarow

  • Reinhart Ceulemans

  • Marine Board-esf

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