Ocean acidification hurts the whole ecosystem (open access)

April 16, 2018

Dr. Thomas Ihde, PEARL Research Assistant Professor, is co-author to new international research led by Erik Olsen titled:

Ocean acidification hurts the whole ecosystem (open access)

From the tropics to the Arctic; increased ocean acidification will have huge, negative effects on marine ecosystems. A new study shows that the ocean management should be less sector based.

Scientists have simulated three possible future scenarios, and looked at how they may play out fifty years from now.

The result was very clear: while the two other scenarios had both positive and negative impacts on the ecosystems, ocean acidification had huge, negative impact.

Global effects
Scientists from the IMR in Norway together with colleagues from USA, France and Australia worked on this new study, recently published in the international scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

The team studied eight marine ecosystems, stretching from the tropics to the Barents Sea. They used advanced ecosystem models to see which effects the following scenarios would give:

  1. Increasing ocean acidification - which is an effect of climate changes
  2. Increasing marine protection areas
  3. Changing in fisheries

Marine ecosystems are solid
The main conclusion is positive: marine ecosystems are quite solid, even up against heavy impacts.

"This means that they will not collapse" says research leader Erik Olsen at IMR.

"But increasing ocean acidification is the scenario which would have the greatest impact of the three scenarios we tested." Ocean acidification happens when large portions of CO2 dissolve in the waters, and transforms into acid. More carbon acid in the ocean leads to a lower pH-value in the ocean. A more acidic ocean can have seriously consequences for marine life, especially for organism who forms shells or skeletons from lime.

Ocean acidification "only creates losers"
The study showed that marine protection or changes in the fisheries will have some positive effects, while others will be negative. In other words, a mixed outcome.

"But in the case of ocean acidification, we saw that it had a great impact on every part of the marine ecosystems" Olsen says.

"And in a massively negative way."

"We must change how we manage the oceans"
Politicians take big decisions on how the oceans are managed. They do that, most often, based on scientific knowledge.

Previously, ocean science and management have been very sectorial based. For example, by managing different species one by one.

This study is an example on why it is most useful to take on a broader perspective, reports the research leader.

"We can't just focus on one part, we must see the whole ecosystem as one" says Erik Olsen.

The open access article is available to read online or for download at: