The ocean in a high CO2 world

Australian Antarctic science was well represented at an international conference on ocean acidification in Monaco recently. The second international symposium on The Ocean in a High CO2 World, from 6–9 October, was an interdisciplinary forum to assess what is known about ocean acidification and to identify priorities for future research and for social and economic policy.

Donna Roberts and Will Howard from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre reported on the reduction of shell weight in planktonic molluscs (pteropods) and foraminifera (single-celled organisms found in plankton). Tom Trull of CSIRO reported on the distribution of pelagic (open ocean) biogenic carbonate in a transect between Australia and Antarctica, and Martin Riddle, of the Australian Antarctic Division, discussed the discovery of a diverse cold water coral community on the continental slope off East Antarctica that could be under threat from rising CO2.

The meeting, attended by 250 marine scientists from 32 countries, was organised by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme, with the support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and several other partners.

Scientists attending the conference agreed that more research is needed to understand the implications and impact of the acidification occurring today. They also insisted that reducing carbon emissions would be the only effective way of stabilising or reversing the acidification process, and argued that despite the reticence of many governments, this was both achievable and affordable — potentially less than 1.5% of global gross domestic product. A full report of the proceedings will be published shortly.

Corporate Communications, AAD