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Oceans Could be 150% More Acidic by 2100


Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing the ocean to acidify at rates not seen for the last 20 million years. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean (at least half of all emissions pass into the seas) increasing the acidity and resulting in “Ocean Acidification”.

A more acid ocean affects marine plants and animals by causing calcium carbonate, the stuff of shells and skeletons and the basis of much of the ocean’s phytoplankton, to dissolve, thus, probably, greatly affecting marine food webs, causing extinction of species vital to the health and productivity of the earth. Business as usual scenarios for CO2 emissions could make the ocean up to 150% more acidic by 2100. Regrettably these problems are not yet recognised outside the oceanographic research community.

The impacts of ocean acidification on marine life, and ultimately the socio-economic effects, are potentially dramatic. Coastal communities and small island developing states (SIDS), which rely on marine-based ecosystem services for a significant portion of their livelihoods, will be the first to feel the impacts of increased ocean acidification.

The global decrease of coastal marine resources and decline in marine biodiversity will impact countries dependent on coastal fishing, fish-processing industries and tourism causing economic hardship as well as destabilising food security for the 1 billion people who depend on fisheries for most of their protein diet.

Ocean issues are global and affect all Nations. Many developing nations and particularly SIDS still lack the scientific and management technologies and knowledge to effectively manage their marine areas. Raising awareness of the impact of ocean acidification on SIDS and building their capacity to respond to the challenge of impacted marine ecosystems is a top priority of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (UNESCO-IOC). In an effort to increase awareness of this critical issue, the UNESCO-IOC has convened a series of symposia on “The Ocean in a High-CO2 World” and published documents describing the impact and options for remediation of the Ocean Acidification problem.

Because of its potential impacts on the marine food chain, biodiversity, food security and livelihoods of coastal community, we believe Ocean Acidification needs to be recognized as a critical ocean issue and acted upon by the international community in the context of the Rio+20 Conference discussions on sustainable development.continue @ unesco.org


1 Comment

  1. Fayjus Salehin says:

    In new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change, an international scientific team has identified a powerful internal mechanism that could enable some corals and their symbiotic algae to counter the adverse impact of a more acidic ocean.

    As humans release ever-larger amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, besides warming the planet, the gas is also turning the world’s oceans more acidic — at rates thought to far exceed those seen during past major extinctions of life. This has prompted strong scientific interest in finding out which species are most vulnerable, and which can handle the changed conditions.
    In groundbreaking research, a team of scientists from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, at the University of Western Australia and France’s Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement, has shown that some marine organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons have an in-built mechanism to cope with ocean acidification — which others appear to lack.

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