Studying sites with naturally high levels of CO2, such as those near underwater volcanic vents off Italy, will enable us to form a better understanding of the consequences of allowing the oceans to become increasingly acidic.
Why this is important:
Our seas currently absorb over 25 million tons of CO2 every day. This has caused surface waters to become 30% more acidic since wide-spread burning of fossil fuels began.
Our seas currently absorb over 25 million tons of CO2 every day. This has caused surface waters to become 30% more acidic since wide-spread burning of fossil fuels began. As well as lowering pH, increased CO2 levels are altering surface water chemistry. Falling carbonate levels are a major conservation concern since these are the building-blocks of shells for marine organisms from tiny coccolithophores to giant coral reefs. Current research into ocean acidification is mainly being carried out using short-term-shock experiments whereby CO2 levels are manipulated in aquaria and enclosures over short timescales. Funding is sought to facilitate fieldwork and to publicise a new approach to determine the ecosystem-wide responses to long-term changes in ocean pH. The effects will be studied on marine communities around underwater volcanic vents in the Mediterranean which release millions of litres of CO2 per day causing seawater acidification. Impacts on marine life include 30% reductions in biodiversity in areas where average pH has dropped by 0.4 units compared with areas at normal seawater pH (8.2). Natural CO2 vents will be used to test modelling and laboratory predictions and bring much needed high-profile publicity to the problem of ocean acidification.
Aims and Objectives
The broad aim of this project is to act as a wake-up-call to raise public awareness of the problems associated with ocean acidification and to get people to think about the consequences of unabated CO2 emissions. The new results that this project will generate will be used as a platform for educating children and adults alike, it will be publicized using interactive public lectures, on websites and through the media. It is clear that with such a small amount of funding the project cannot hope to carry out detailed studies of new CO2 vent areas as the costs of the necessary ship-time, ROV time and man-power would involve a project running into several hundred thousand dollars. The objectives of this project are more modest; to create as much publicity as possible for preliminary findings from CO2 vent areas showing the dramatic ecosystem tipping points that occur when the pH of seawater is lowered to the levels expected by the year 2100 if current emissions continue unabated. We have established the firm scientific credentials needed to speak with authority on this subject, by publishing our findings in Nature, the most rigorous of internationally peer-reviewed journals. We will now obtain better video images of the sites, visit more CO2 vent sites and engage with the specialist scientific community at conferences to sell the idea that this Save the Seas funded project shows the way for a larger, fully resourced international programme designed to harness naturally acidified areas to refine our understanding of the conservation consequences of ocean acidification under the various emissions scenarios predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
A secondary aim of the project is to publish the findings from research into CO2 vent fields in the scientific literature.
Save Our Seas Supported Project Leader Jason Hall-Spencer recently (co-) authored several interesing papers. One of them describes increased growth in sea anemones because of the higher CO2 content in seawater. The abstract of the paper tells us: Increased seawater…
Save Our Seas Supported Project Leader Professor Jason Hall-Spencer is an authority on ocean acidification. Our seas currently absorb over 25 million tons of CO2 every day. This has caused surface waters to become 30% more acidic since wide-spread burning…
Save Our Seas Supported Scientist Dr. Jason Spencer-Hall’s work is frequently in the news. The huge amounts of atmospheric CO2 being absorbed by the world’s oceans is making them more acidic than they have been for tens of millions of…