Stepping back from the acidic abyss
A group of prominent marine scientists has presented its 'Honolulu Declaration on Ocean Acidification and Reef Management'
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And the concern: corals, certain forms of plankton, and shellfish will have an increasingly hard time surviving, because acidic waters will have removed the carbonate ions that might otherwise have been available for shell-building. Until now, this idea has largely been tested in the lab, with results that don't bode well for such marine creatures. Two papers were published in July that show the effect of acidification on reefs in the Galapagos and ecosystems around hydrothermal vents in the Mediterranean. In these cases, the sources of acidifying action on seawater were natural. But the results mirrored those in the lab. In the Med, shells of creatures such as whelk and abalone started to dissolve when CO2 concentrations rose as vents erupted. Interestingly, the difference in pH between between quiet times and eruptions is about the same the ocean in general is expected to reach by 2100, according to Jason Hall-Spencer, the lead author of the study. Some of the striken creatures are similar to those that earn the fishing industry big bucks off North America's west coast. In the Galapagos, acidification increased the reefs' vulnerability to erosion.Skip to next paragraph
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Which brings us (finally!) back to today's declaration. The document has its plea to reduce CO2 emissions as "the most logical and critical action" to head off the effects of additional acidification. But, says Rod Salm, the group of scientists didn't want to stop there. Dr. Salm is a reef ecologist who heads the Nature Conservancy's tropical-marine conservation program and is one of the declaration's signers. The politics of mitigation is too messy and time consuming to wait, especially when resource managers can take actions now that could help.
Note: Eoin O’Carroll is on vacation. He will return Sept. 2