Ocean acidification: Australian impacts in the global context

Ocean acidification, caused by increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolving in the ocean, is likely to have serious consequences for marine ecosystems and biodiversity in Australian waters and the Southern Ocean over this century.

At a meeting convened by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) in June this year, scientists from national and international research and government institutions summarised the current state of knowledge about ocean acidification and its effects on ocean chemistry and the marine biota of Australian waters.

Discussions at the meeting focused on issues such as: the effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms; using the fossil record to look at the response of marine organisms to changes in ocean chemistry; and integrating ocean acidification research with the policy and management of Australian and Antarctic ecosystems.

At the end of the meeting the group released a short public communiqué outlining current scientific knowledge, gaps in the knowledge and the way forward.

The articles listed below are based on research presented at the meeting. While some of the research has an Australian focus, many of the changes described will be detected first in the Southern Ocean, where the colder water increases the solubility of CO2. The Southern Ocean has a high inventory of anthropogenic (human-made) CO2 and is already closer to carbonate mineral saturation thresholds than other Southern Hemisphere waters. However, research carried out on marine organisms in Australian waters will provide clues to possible biological responses in the less accessible Antarctic and Southern Ocean waters — such as the responses of deep-water corals only recently discovered close to the Antarctic continent by Census of Antarctic Marine Life surveys (Australian Antarctic Magazine 14: 4–6, 2008).

Articles relating to the ocean acidification meeting: