Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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What can we do about ocean acidification?

Over 70% of global CO2 emissions are produced within city limits. Recognizing this, mayors from cities around the world have joined the C40 Cities Global Leadership Program.  The program's goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities. Reducing the carbon footprint of the member cities involves municipalities encouraging utilization of alternate technologies, but also individuals willing to take any of the 11 steps recommended to reduce their personal CO2 footprint. Altering or stopping ocean acidification on human- relevant time-scales will ultimately depend upon reducing net CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.    

Shellfish growers in Washington and Oregon are taking steps to adapt to ocean acidification.  They are doing so by monitoring local seawater chemistry and adopting different industry practices to protect production in oyster hatcheries. Their changes have made an important difference. Oyster hatcheries are unique in the seafood industry because they can regulate their intake of seawater and even modify it as necessary in some cases.  In most instances, stakeholders and resource managers do not have control over their water chemistry. 

Local actions on land may play an important role in the progress of acidification in coastal waters.  High loads of nutrients such as nitrogen and organic carbon can cause acidification, linking human facilitated nutrient run off to coastal ocean chemistry. Reducing nutrient loading could offer a short-term solution to the progression of ocean acidification in some locales. 

Marine ecosystems are changing not only in response to ocean acidification, but to a whole host of stressors including rising ocean temperatures.  It is critical to improve our understanding of how marine ecosystems may change in response to ocean acidification and other stressors so that we can prepare for the coming changes. Luckily, it appears that not all marine species are sensitive to such changes and some species will benefit from them.