Image: NOAA Ocean Explorer, Flickr
The Evil Twin of Global Warming
Ocean acidification naturally results from elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere. The oceans absorb CO2, which becomes carbonic acid as it dissolves into the sea water. Ocean acidification picked up the moniker "Evil Twin of Global Warming" at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15).
Recent research has suggested just how significantly the ocean chemistry affects life on earth. Now scientists are setting up to learn more about how our oceans are reacting to the 30% increase in pH (the measure of acidity) that has already occurred, and what might happen if the trends continue. If you were hoping the oceans could balance our act, you may be in for a grim acid oceans reality check.Scientists have begun cataloging early effects of ocean acification, including evolution of marine species and effects on coral beds or algae populations. Now the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme is funding a six-pronged effort to better define what is happening and what may happen next. Under the 5-year program:
- Variability in oceanic CO2 absorption will be studied by Professor Andrew Watson of the University of East Anglia;
- The Plymouth Marine Laboratory, led by Dr Stephen Widdicombe, will study how ocean acidification affects seabed communities;
- Dr Toby Tyrrell at the National Oceanography Centre will investigate the biology of the surface ocean communities and biogeochemistry, looking for climate feedback loops.
- Led by Dr Andy Ridgwell, the University of Bristol will research how ocean acidification might amplify climate change;
- Dr Jerry Blackford, also of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, will study ecosystems and chemical cycling in waters of the UK and Arctic;
- The impacts of historical ocean acidity changes is the focus of Professor Paul Pearson, Cardiff University.
The program is the "UK's response to growing concerns over ocean acidification" according to the UK Ocean Acidification Research website. The project is funded by UK agencies: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
More on Ocean Acidification:
What You Need to Know About Ocean Acidification
Oceans Acidifying 10x Faster Than During Last Massive Marine Extinction
Global Warming's Evil Twin: Ocean Acidification - A Present And Measurable Danger
Ocean Acidification Causing Some Shells to Grow Thicker
Caribbean Coral Reef Conservation Ignores Evolution