01.04.2014 - Natural Sciences Sector

Visualizing Ocean Acidification: new online resource

Screenshot of ocean-acidification.net

New online features were launched to bring together the latest ocean acidification infographics, publications, background information, presentations and news for researchers, policymakers and the public.

The acidity of the ocean has increased by 26% since the beginning of industrialization, because part of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean, triggering chemical reactions that reduce seawater pH. This process is known as acidification, also called the "other CO<sub>2</sub> problem" in reference to rising water temperatures. Ocean acidification is a complex phenomenon and it is difficult to observe its impacts:  isolating this phenomenon from other factors affecting the ocean is challenging. However, economic impacts have already been observed; for example the higher mortality rate of oyster larvae in hatcheries on the west coast of the United States is reducing their productivity.

Acidification takes its toll on the ocean as a whole, even in areas with little or no direct anthropogenic influence, such as the Arctic. This website was created to raise awareness, present the phenomenon introduce the challenged related to Ocean Acidification by several pioneering institutions that are working together to increase the knowledge-base and facilitate international cooperation in this field. The website was developed by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC-UNESCO), the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) and the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center (OA-ICC) operated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s Environmental Laboratories in Monaco.

The features were published just as the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released. The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, says that the effects of climate change are already occurring on all continents and across the ocean. It explains that Ocean acidification acts together with other global changes (e.g., warming, decreasing oxygen levels) and with local changes (e.g., pollution, eutrophication). Simultaneous drivers, such as warming and ocean acidification, can lead to interactive, complex, and amplified impacts for species and ecosystems.

The striking feature of observed impacts is that they are occurring from the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the wealthiest countries to the poorest. 

Ocean acidification by numbers
40%: The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO<sub>2</sub>) levels since the start of the industrial revolution.
26%: The increase in ocean acidity from preindustrial levels to today.
24 million: The number of tons of CO<sub>2</sub> the ocean absorbs every day.
10 times: The current rate of acidification is over 10 times faster than any time in the last 55 million years.

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