UN Expert Warns Of Ocean Acidification, Threat To Marine Ecosystems

A United Nations expert has warned of the consequences of the phenomenon "Ocean acidification," which can threaten the marine ecosystems.

"Ocean acidification is one of the most important issues facing us today. It's a new phenomenon, but an undeniable phenomenon," says Wendy Watson-Wright, Assistant Director- General and Executive Secretary of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

"And given the possible impacts that it could have on just about everything living in the ocean, it is very, very important," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) quoted him as saying on Monday.

Ocean acidification occurs as oceans absorb the rising quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When dissolved, the carbon dioxide forms carbonic acid, creating a more acidic environment, which can threaten marine ecosystems.

In response to the international scientific community's call for more coordinated research and action, the IAEA has created the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center, which will be launched this summer. The Center is based at the Environment Laboratories of the IAEA in Monaco, and is supported by several IAEA Member-States. It will be established under the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative project.

The Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center will serve the scientific community, policymakers, schools, media, and the general public.

"Fundamentally, ocean acidification is modifying water's chemistry, which can possibly have devastating effects on all organisms living in the marine environment. This is especially true if one considers the combined effects with other stressing factors such as water temperature increase and oxygen depletion," says Michel Warnau, one of the IAEA's lead scientists on ocean acidification.

Corals and other marine organisms, especifically those with shells and skeletons, are at particular risk.

Philip Munday at James Cook University in Australia, who has been studying the impact ocean acidification might have on fish, expressed concern that this could affect fish populations.

The scientists all agree that ocean acidification will have a dramatic impact on some species. But the big picture of long-term consequences is still elusive.

"The possible impact of ocean acidification should not just be a cause for alarm, but a cause for action," says Rodelio Subade, Director of the Institute for Fisheries Policy and Development Studies, College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences in the Philippines.

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