Across the globe, seawater chemistry is changing faster than at any time in earth’s history. As increased carbon dioxide emissions dissolve into the ocean, its chemical makeup is altered, becoming more and more acidic. On average, seawater is 30% more acidic than it was 200 years ago. And while this change in chemistry — known as ocean acidification — may be invisible, its effects are not.
Ocean acidification is further exacerbated by regional sources of pollution, such as stormwater runoff and local factory emissions, and is already having devastating effects on marine organisms and ecosystems. In more acidic waters, shellfish and coral struggle to form their shells and skeletons, fish lose their ability to smell their predators, and crustaceans die before they can reproduce.
Ocean acidification is expected to cost the global economy more than USD$1 trillion per year by 2100.
Despite this great risk, those communities most vulnerable to ocean acidification – such as small islands or low income coastal areas – have no infrastructure in place to monitor and respond to the issue.
The Ocean Foundation’s International Ocean Acidification Initiative builds the capacity of scientists, policymakers, and communities to monitor, understand, and respond to ocean acidification both locally and collaboratively on a global scale. We do this by creating practical tools and resources that are designed to work all around the world.
Together with our partners, The Ocean Foundation designed a suite of equipment that cut the cost of monitoring ocean chemistry by 90%. To further facilitate the use of these new tools, we hold trainings around the world and provide long term support through equipment, stipends, and ongoing mentoring.
As of 2019, TOF has delivered 17 customized ocean acidification monitoring kits to 16 countries, helping to establish the first-ever monitoring in the majority of those countries. The TOF-trained scientists have gone on to secure long-term funding to grow their in-country monitoring programs and some have begun leading regional trainings themselves.
The Initiative has trained more than 200 scientists, policymakers, seafood sector workers, and community members to monitor, understand, and respond to ocean acidification. We have also led seven regional science trainings, two regional policy trainings, and one national policy training. The Ocean Foundation has also helped six states in the US pass legislation on ocean acidification by providing legislative drafting support and is supporting Mexico in drafting national legislation on ocean acidification. In June of 2019, at the meeting of the parties of the Cartagena Convention, new emphasis was placed on addressing ocean acidification across the Caribbean region through a joint resolution drafted with support from the TOF Ocean Acidification Initiative team.
TOF has enabled countries who previously had no monitoring capacity to understand how ocean acidification is affecting their country and resources. TOF’s coaching of legislators created new champions for this issue at national and international levels.
The Bigger Picture
Ocean acidification is fundamentally changing our ocean, yet despite the considerable threat that it poses to our planet, there are still significant gaps in our understanding of the science and impact behind ocean acidification. The only way to truly stop it is to halt all CO2 emissions. But, if we understand what is happening regionally, we can design management and adaptation plans that protect important communities, ecosystems, and species.
Ocean Acidification Day of Action
From the shallows to the depths of our blue planet, a crisis is occurring.
A Movement to Understand Our Changing Ocean – Building Capacity in Africa to Monitor Ocean Acidification
Ocean Acidification – A Ubiquitous Problem
As Dr. Chris Langdon said at the meeting, “ocean acidification is not a future threat in Florida, it’s a present problem, and it’s only going to get worse.”
The ocean absorbs a significant portion of our carbon dioxide emissions, which is changing the chemistry of the ocean at an unprecedented rate.