credit – Ocean Conservancy
No matter where you live, if you go outside and start walking north, at some point you’ll reach the Arctic Ocean. A vast expanse at the northern reaches of the planet, the Arctic Ocean supports a dizzying array of ocean wildldife, including the charismatic – and much threatened – polar bear. Most readers of The Blog Aquatic know that summer sea ice has been rapidly melting, caused by human-induced climate change from our ever rising global carbon emissions. Indeed, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the global atmosphere just broke a new record high.
But more poorly understood is that carbon dioxide is beginning to undermine the Arctic ocean itself through a process called ocean acidification. No less than 10 key scientific findings can be found in a just-released assessment of ocean acidification undertaken by an international group of independent scientists.
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A Seattle Chef prepares crisp smelt while learning about the local impacts of ocean acidification – credit Zach Lyons
Earlier this April, Ocean Conservancy and the Seattle Chefs Collaborative co- hosted an event featuring what was probably the most delicious seafood in the world. The Seattle Chef’s Collaborative is a local chapter of a national organization that brings chefs together to meet, learn, and advocate. They are not a traditional conservation organization, but in this case were gathered to talk about little-known local species, a problem called ocean acidification, and to enjoy their colleagues’ creations featuring the very species discussed.
Ocean acidification, caused by rising CO₂ emissions being absorbed by the ocean can be a pretty daunting topic. We are always asking ourselves, “how do we move this conversation from small groups of scientists and managers to the bus stops and dinner tables where most of us hang out”
Well, everyone has to eat, and for the most part, they enjoy doing so.
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Credit: swamibu flickr stream
Seattle–one of my favorite cities. I first came here in 2006 and fell in love with Puget Sound, the strong smell of coffee and the surprisingly steep downtown streets that make my morning runs more challenging than I’m used to, given the gentle slopes of DC.
Today I’ve just attended an event at the beautiful Seattle Aquarium to hear Washington Governor Christine Gregoire announce the first ever state response to ocean acidification — a little-known threat that hit the Pacific Northwest shellfish industry like an invisible ton of bricks back in 2007 and now has top billing in Washington and across the country today.
Ocean acidification is what happens when significant amounts of carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the ocean. A chemical reaction is occurring in our oceans right now as our carbon emissions increase. Because of the amount of carbon pollution being absorbed by the ocean, its pH is lowered, turning it more acidic. The ocean is 25% more acidic than it was before the Industrial Revolution.
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Credit: National Marine Sanctuaries
As George Leonard wrote recently, planning for a stormier, warmer ocean is a daunting but important task. That’s already a reality for those of us living on the Gulf Coast, where sea level rise (compounded by coastal erosion) can almost wash away an entire community.
With near-perfect timing, another new study has just revealed that sea grasses can trap 2 to 3 times more carbon than a typical forest. The ocean, not just forests, can play a larger role than scientists previously believed keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Continue reading »
Credit: James Maciariello
I have had three sobering yet empowering days in Boston at the first Global Conference on Oceans, Climate and Security hosted by UMass Boston. I joined colleagues from academia, government, the non-profit sector, private industry and even the military to explore human and national security implications of our changing climate and our changing oceans. While our elected officials in Washington DC continue to debate whether climate change is “real”, those on the front lines have moved beyond this debate to prepare for what is to come and indeed, what is already here.
Make no mistake about it. Our oceans are changing. Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the nation’s top ocean official, itemized these changes; sea level is rising and the oceans are getting stormier, seawater is getting warmer and holds less oxygen. None of this is debatable. The data are clear and profound. And the pace of change is increasing. Continue reading »