This is what I’ve been working on for a little while:
Ocean acidification – emerging issues
Today, the Royal Society of New Zealand released an advice piece to inform policy makers and the public about ocean acidification. A copy is attached. This work was led by Professor Keith Hunter, FRSNZ and Vice President (Physical Sciences, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology) of the RSNZ.
Ocean acidification is a new facet of climate change. Increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to increased absorption of carbon dioxide into the oceans, raising the acidity of ocean waters. This will affect the ability of organisms such as corals and shellfish to form reefs and shells. The effect of this upon ecosystems is difficult to predict. Many species will experience difficulties as acidification progresses. In contrast, for some kinds of plankton, ocean acidification may increase their productivity. The overall impact on ecosystems is not known.
Potentially affected ecosystems in New Zealand could include Bluff oyster fisheries in Foveaux Strait; the Otago coastal algae that provide the habitat for kina and paua larvae; cold, deep water corals; and the open ocean plankton that underpin the ocean food web. Antarctica may also be affected, as this effect will be strongest where water is coldest. These ecosystems also face many other stressors including climate change, overfishing and pollution.
Acidification is a long term issue and it is not clear if existing ecosystems are being affected yet. However, in the long term, the impacts of ocean acidification may be very substantial.
The information paper discusses what can be said about the social and economic impacts of ocean acidification. This discussion is necessarily brief as little research has been done on what impacts are expected. In particular, the effects on the viability of aquaculture are unknown and ocean acidification may be a substantial risk for this industry. How economies and societies will be able adapt to ocean acidification is also unknown.
The information piece can be downloaded from:
The Royal Society will continue to publish further work on informing policy makers and the general public on emerging science issues. The Society will be running a workshop for policy makers with Professor Keith Hunter on Wednesday, the 9th of September, to explore acidification science, the relevance to New Zealand’s marine ecosystems, fisheries and aquaculture industries, and to discuss knowledge needs and research priorities for the future. For more information, please see the attached note or look under “News & Events” at http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/.
And the information piece itself.
In short, it’s happening, slowly, we don’t know the effects on our oceans or coastal ecosystems, potentially little change, potentially very bad indeed. The only way to slow this is less emissions of carbon dioxide.
And if you want to be part of the solution, then it’s simple – eat less meat, drive less, fly never, and insulate your house. I think we can all agree today on the benefit of insulating your house.