The UK is launching a five-year, £11-million (US$16.4 million) study into the effects of increasing acidification on Britain’s seas.
Ocean acidity, caused by increased amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the sea, has risen 30% in the last 200 years, faster than any time in the last 65 million years, with serious implications for sealife and our climate, according to a new report by the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership.
The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is jointly funding the research program with the Natural Environment Research Councils (NERC). The program will focus on the North-East Atlantic (including European shelf and slope), Antarctic and Arctic Oceans and aim to deliver the following seven main science outputs:
- Improve estimates of ocean CO2 uptake and associated acidification.
- Evaluate the impact of acidification on ocean biogeochemical processes.
- Identify and improve understanding of the potential impacts and implications of acidification on key ecosystems, communities, habitats, and species, focussing on the continental shelf and slope.
- Improve the understanding of the potential population, community and ecosystem impacts and implications for commercially important species.
- Provide evidence from the paleo-record of past changes in ocean acidity and resultant changes in marine species composition and Earth System function.
- Identify and understand the indirect impacts of decreasing pH on atmospheric chemistry and the climate system.
- Improve the understanding of the cumulative or synergistic effects of Ocean Acidification on ecosystem structure and function with other global change pressures.
The new report also highlights how many small effects of climate change are being magnified through important links with the marine environment, and how distant events such as melting Arctic sea ice may affect people, wildlife and the environment in the UK.
The ocean acidification research program is expected to run for five years, with NERC funding £7.7 million and Defra contributing £2.5 million in the first three years with a provisional commitment of £800,000 over two more years.