From the shallows to the deeps of our great ocean, a crisis is occurring. As CO2 dissolves into the ocean, it alters its chemistry – the ocean is 30% more acidic than it was 200 years ago, and it is acidifying faster than at any time in Earth’s history. This is called ocean acidification. Ocean acidification may be invisible, sadly its impacts are not. From shellfish and coral, to fish and sharks, the animals of the ocean and the communities that depend on them, are threatened. The Ocean Foundation has been fighting ocean acidification since 2003, employing a four-part approach that addresses the issue from all angles.
How, where, and how quickly is change occurring?
Ocean acidification is causing rapid changes in chemistry, and these changes are not consistent across the globe. The first step to fighting ocean acidification is to monitor our waters so that we can better understand how, where, and how quickly the change is occurring. We have tools to monitor both the chemistry – such as the change in pH - and the biology – like the change in algae distribution. Right now, entire regions of the ocean have limited or no capacity for such monitoring. The Ocean Foundation works to increase monitoring capacity by providing training workshops for early career scientists and by supporting the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (the GOA-ON) with our Friends of GOA-ON Fund.
How are we being affected now, and how will we be affected in the future?
Once we have data, we can identify patterns and conduct experiments informed by real world conditions. With enough experimental data, we can produce models that help us predict future scenarios so that we know where, how, and when to act. The Ocean Foundation supports training on how to design experiments that help us better understand how ocean acidification might affect economically, ecologically, and culturally valuable species, and the communities that depend on them, and the building of models and forecasting systems based that give us predictive abilities and the power to adapt.
Building partnerships and coalitions with stakeholders
Armed with data and a scientific understanding of the threat, we can engage stakeholders with a compelling story of what ocean acidification could mean to them. We can work with fishers, shellfish farmers and others in coastal communities to interpret how the changes will affect them, and we can work with policy makers to demonstrate how their constituents and the economies of their districts might be affected. The Ocean Foundation works with community groups and legislatures across the world to help bring attention to ocean acidification and its potential impacts.
Enacting legislation that mitigates ocean acidification and helps communities adapt
By building a coalition of stakeholders – stakeholders who are armed with strong science – we have the power to act. The Ocean Foundation works with legislatures around the world to craft legal language that addresses ocean acidification from the local level to the international level. We craft legislation that both helps mitigate ocean acidification – through reduction of CO2 pollution or blue carbon restoration, including plantings of seagrass, mangroves and salt marsh grasses – and adapt to ocean acidification – through programs that provide the tools and resources needed by those industries being affected now, such as early warning systems and tools for reducing mortality at hatcheries.
We work across all four of these areas because we believe they rely on one another. We cannot act if don’t engage, and we cannot engage if we don’t understand. To learn more about ocean acidification visit our resource page, and to learn more about our programs, read staff member Alexis Valauri-Orton’s article on our work to fill critical data gaps in Africa.