Oceans Face the Acid Test
Scientists gather evidence of the scale and impact of carbonic acid in our seas.
On June 6th 2011, the RRS Discovery sailed out of Liverpool on a pioneering mission. This was the first time a research vessel would specifically gather data on the increasing acidity of Europe’s seas and the impact of this on marine ecosystems.
The five-week voyage is part of the LWEC-accredited UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme, which aims to feed information and advice to the UK government, industry and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“As seas absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, carbonic acid is produced and increases their acidity”, said Dr Carol Turley, the programme’s Knowledge Exchange Co-ordinator. “Scientists from across the UK are joining forces in the RRS Discovery expedition to understand how this might impact marine organisms and ecosystems in a future high-CO2 world”.
The speed of ocean acidification is probably greater now than it has been for over 50 million years. The effects – on living organisms, industries relying on the sea, and natural processes driven by the ocean/climate interface – could be profound. This is, however, a relatively new field of study, so the programme is currently focused on clarifying the nature, size and timescale of the potential impacts.
The programme has already produced a short film, ‘Ocean Acidification: Connecting Science, Industry, Policy and Public’, that underlines the key role science must play in informing decisions on how to tackle the issue. As Dr Dan Laffoley of the International Ocean Acidification Reference User Group says in the film,
“Unless the politicians are well-informed and have the right policies, they’re not going to take the right actions”.