HUNDREDS of marine scientists from around the world are gathered in Hobart this week for the 4th International Oceans in High-CO2 World Symposium to discuss one of our planet’s most serious yet still vastly understudied threats to the ocean’s health, biodiversity and food security.
Held every four years and now for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere, the focus is on ocean acidification, where the ocean absorbs increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Awards of $1.3 million this year, totaling $4.1 million over three years, will focus on understanding the combined effects of ocean acidification, low oxygen and nutrient pollution on economically and ecologically important species in coastal habitats.
It is clear that our ocean is becoming more acidic as a result of carbon dioxide seeping into open ocean surface waters. But closer to shore things become a bit murky, as other factors can also change the chemistry of coastal waters. In these waters which are home to many important marine organisms on which coastal communities rely, scientists will be working to shed light on the potential impacts of acidification and other stresses.
The waters of Alaska are vast, cold and vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification. Although these effects have been characterized in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, on Monday July 13 NOAA and partners will depart to survey new waters in the Gulf of Alaska. Researchers from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) will set sail on the NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown to survey ocean chemistry and its connections to the base of the food web in the Gulf of Alaska.
“This cruise offers the unique opportunity for data to be collected throughout the Gulf of Alaska,” said Dr. Jessica Cross, chief scientist for this expedition, “This will be the first broad scale, comprehensive survey in this area.”
NOAA and scientists from Princeton, Old Dominion University, and the Universities of New Hampshire, Delaware, and Miami set off on June 19th from Newport, Rhode Island aboard NOAA ship Gordon Gunter on a research cruise to better understand ocean acidification and its drivers along the U.S. East Coast.
This research cruise is just one part of a larger effort supported by the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program to better understand how ocean chemistry along all the U.S. coasts is changing in response to ocean acidification and where marine organisms may be at greatest risk. Similar cruises have taken place on the U.S. West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Understanding why and how fast our ocean chemistry is changing in different areas will allow scientists to better predict future changes and explore ways to adapt to those shifts.