Monterey, California, USA, 27 September 2012
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– International Coordination Centre for ocean acidification set to open
– Marine experts warn “life throughout the world’s oceans will have to adapt rapidly to new conditions”
– But, there are winners and losers. Some species may have the genetic diversity to adapt; others will suffer.
– Wendy Schmidt sponsors Ocean Health X Prize to spur innovation in marine science technology
– New ocean acidification in Google Earth Tour
Prince Albert II told the conference, “Supported by among others the Government of Monaco and my Foundation, an Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre has been set up in Monaco within the premises of the International Atomic Energy Agency's Marine Environment Laboratories. It represents not only an enormous source of pride for myself but also gives me real hopes for the future.”
Wendy Schmidt, from the Schmidt Family Foundation, spoke to the symposium participants and delegates from the Blue Ocean Film Festival, also taking place in Monterey in the same week, “Working intensively together to gather data we can advance rapidly the understanding of an urgent problem and accelerate the pace of our response.” The new X-Prize will be launched in 2013.
Ocean acidification experts gathered in Monterey are increasingly concerned with how marine organisms will adapt to new “corrosive” conditions, particularly organisms with hard calcium carbonate shells or exoskeletons such as oysters, mussels, corals and some phytoplankton, which form the base of the ocean food chain.
The aquaculture industry is already affected. Shellfish hatcheries in Washington State and Oregon are now measuring pH levels and avoid using waters with potential corrosive properties.
The four-day symposium brought together the world’s leading experts in a research field that is expanding rapidly. The first such international symposium in 2004 attracted just 125 researchers. In 2008, the event brought 227 academics to Monaco. This year, 547 researchers descended on Monterey. For the first time economic and policy issues featured prominently.
“It is remarkable how fast carbon dioxide emissions are altering ocean chemistry. We already see impacts on the shellfish industry in the Pacific Northwest.”
There will be winners and losers as a result of ocean acidification. Research discussed at the conference suggests some types of red tides – toxic algal blooms harmful to shellfish and humans if ingested – may become more prevalent in places.
“With smoking, doctors encourage patients to cut down on other damaging habits or activities, such as drinking or becoming overstressed at work.”
Likewise, humans are creating health problems for the oceans. “Until we kick the CO2 habit, we are just treating the symptoms.”
On a global scale, ocean acidification is happening at an unprecedented rate, and marine life will have to adapt rapidly to new conditions. We see that some species can adapt which gives us hope, but others will decline, and still others will go extinct, remarked Dr Kleypas.
“The net effect is that many marine ecosystems will change in unpredictable ways.”
Consensus is growing within the scientific community as to the threat posed by ocean acidification. Dr Jean Pierre Gattuso, a member of the scientific committee of the ocean acidification symposium, publishes a paper shortly in the journal Climatic Change that assessed the expert consensus in this field. Dr Gattuso said, “Concerning the chemistry of the future ocean, it is largely accepted that, over the next century, assuming business as usual carbon dioxide emissions, ocean acidification will continue at a rate faster than non-anthropogenic acidification has ever occurred in the past 55 million years.”
“Similarly, there was general agreement that the magnitude of future anthropogenic ocean acidification depends on our carbon dioxide emissions.”
Using data visualization, the tour tracks how the ocean is predicted to change in the coming centuries as fossil-fuel emissions continue on their current trajectory. An animated sequence, created by Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-ESM), takes the viewer from the year 1950 to 2300. Researchers have concluded that current rates of acidification are faster than at any point in the last 300 million years. The cool waters of the Arctic and Antarctic are affected most, but all the world’s oceans are already feeling the impact.
You can view the ocean acidification tour in Google Earth here:
The event also saw the release of several new guides to ocean acidification.
“The new knowledge and multimedia guides released today open up ocean acidification so everyone can explore from their desktops what our current carbon dioxide emissions may mean to the ocean, and to us, in the very near future,” said Dan Laffoley, Marine Vice Chair of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and Chair of Europe’s Ocean Acidification Reference User Group.
Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this press release are those of individual scientists and may not represent the views of conference sponsors.
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