Emissions causing ocean acidification at 'unprecedented' rate

Man made carbon dioxide emissions are causing ocean acidification at an 'unprecedented' rate, according to a study by the US-based National Research Council.

The council said yesterday evening (April 22) that unless CO2 emissions are 'substantially curbed' the ocean will continue to become more acidic.

The long-term consequences of ocean acidification on marine life are unknown, but many ecosystem changes are expected to result.

The ocean absorbs approximately a third of man-made C02 emissions, including those from fossil-fuel use, cement production, and deforestation, the report says.

The CO2 taken up by the ocean decreases the pH of the water and leads to a combination of chemical changes collectively known as ocean acidification.

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the average pH of ocean surface waters has decreased approximately 0.1 unit -- from about 8.2 to 8.1 -- making them more acidic.

This rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred in hundreds of thousands of years, the report says.

It adds ocean will become more acidic on average as surface waters continue to absorb atmospheric C02 the committee said.

It recommends six key elements of a successful National Ocean Acidification Program:

· an integrated ocean acidification observation network that includes the development of new tools, methods, and techniques to improve measurements

· research in eight broad areas to fulfill critical information gaps

· assessments to identify stakeholder concerns and a process to provide relevant information for decision support

· a data management office that would ensure data quality, access, and archiving, plus an information exchange that would provide research results, syntheses, and assessments to managers, policymakers, and the general public

· facilities to support high-quality research and training of ocean acidification researchers

· an effective 10-year strategic plan for the program that will identify key goals, set priorities, and allow for community input, in addition to a detailed implementation plan

The study is funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the National Science Foundation.

Luke Walsh


acid rain


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