Pacific Science Association

PSA Task Force on Ocean Acidification

The Pacific Science Association is facilitating international scientific collaboration on ocean acidification, an emerging issue of critical regional and global significance. PSA has formed a Task Force on Ocean Acidification led by acting co-chairs Dr. Yoshihisa Shirayama and Dr. Peter Brewer. The Task Force convened sessions at the 21st Pacific Science Congress in Okinawa, Japan in June 2007, as well as the 11th Pacific Science Inter-Congress in Tahiti in March 2009, which combined expertise in biogeochemistry, ocean ecology, and socio-economics.

Scientific data collected over many years are conclusive that oceanic absorption of atmospheric CO2 is causing chemical changes in seawater, making them more acidic (i.e. lowering pH). Increasing levels of anthropogenic CO2 are causing this process to accelerate. The average pH of the world’s oceans has dropped by about 0.1 pH units since the beginning of the industrial age. Without deep and early reductions in global carbon emissions, oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon will cause a further drop of 0.3 to 0.7 pH units by the year 2100. The degree and rapidity of these changes in ocean chemistry have not occurred in millions of years.

Early data is highly suggestive that ocean acidification (OA) will negatively impact many important marine organisms. Lower pH interferes with the physiological processes of calcifying organisms, including corals, echinoderms, coccolithophores, mollusks, and some zooplankton, which use various forms of calcium carbonate to construct cell coverings or skeletons. Fishes may also suffer adverse effects from OA, either directly as reproductive or physiological effects (e.g. CO2-induced acidification of body fluids), or indirectly through negative impacts on food resources. There is not yet a clear understanding of these processes, their implications for marine ecosystems, or for the human societies and economies that depend on marine resources and services. Given the critical ecological, economic, and cultural function of oceans in the region, nowhere is the need for additional research greater than the Asia-Pacific.

Changes in mean ocean pH in relation to anthropogenic CO2 emissions and atmospheric CO2 concentrations (Caldeira & Wickett 2003).

PSA has established a Task Force on Ocean Acidification in the Pacific (TFOAP). TFOAP provides an institutional framework for coordinating and facilitating regional collaborative scientific research to examine OA and its implications. As an international network of geochemists, biologists, and social scientists in their home institutions, TFOAP will function as a series of linked and coordinated projects in the Asia-Pacific region. Making this information available and accessible to decision-makers and the public is also essential to facilitate informed policy judgments, including possible mitigation strategies. TFOAP will facilitate and coordinate the development of targeted research, field and laboratory experiments, monitoring regimes, a web portal, publications, and a network of experts examining the issue. The immediate goals of the Task Force are to identify knowledge gaps in scientific understanding of the OA phenomenon, including assessment of social and economic impacts; TFOAP will produce a report, arising from a session that will take place at the 21st Pacific Science Congress in Okinawa in June 2007, that will discuss these aspects of OA. This document will also be an importance source for educating the policy community and public in the region about OA and the potential threat it poses to the marine ecological systems upon which those societies depend.

TFOAP will coordinate among a variety of leading scientific institutions, such as the Seto Marine Biological Laboratory at Kyoto University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), and others. PSA serves as a regional institutional venue to facilitate international research partnerships in the study of OA and its implications in the Pacific, and to promote policy-relevance and greater awareness of the importance of the phenomenon. PSA is a virtual hub as well as a facilitator underpinning these efforts, but is not an implementer or funding organization for research.

Change in sea surface pH caused by anthropogenic CO2 between the 1700s and the 1990s
Source: Wikipedia Commons.

For more information on ocean acidification, an excellent preliminary report is available here from the Royal Society (UK). Elizabeth Kolbert produced an excellent summary for the general reader in a November 2006 issue of The New Yorker magazine, which can be found here. An August 2006 article in Nature that mentions Dr. Shirayama's work and TFOAP's coming session at the 21st Pacific Science Congress can be found here (requires subscription to Nature) . Click here for the OA article on Wikipedia. A list of further readings on OA is at the bottom of this page. A recent webcast conference on OA convened by the World Ocean Forum can be found here.

TFOAP Co-Chairs:
Dr. Yoshihisa Shirayama
Director and Professor
Seto Marine Biological Laboratory, Graduate School of Science
Kyoto University
email: yshira "at"

Dr. Peter Brewer
Senior Scientist
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
7700 Sandholdt Road
Moss Landing, CA 95039
email: brpe "at"

Further Reading on Ocean Acidification:

Agardy, T. (2006). Dropping pH in the Oceans Causing a Rising Tide of Alarm. The W2O Newsletter.

Caldeira, K., and M.E. Wickett, M.E. (2003). Anthropogenic carbon and ocean pH. Nature 425, 365-365.

Cicerone, R., J. Orr, P. Brewer et al. (2004). The Ocean in a High CO2 World. Eos. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 85, 351-353.

Doney, S. C. (2006). The Dangers of Ocean Acidification. Scientific American 294, 58-65. (Article preview only)

Feely, R. A. et al. (2004). Impact of Anthropogenic CO2 on the CaCO3 System in the Oceans. (Abstract) Science 305, 362-366.

Gattuso, J.-P., M. Frankignoulle, I. Bourge, S. Romaine, and R.W. Buddemeier. (1998). Effect of calcium carbonate saturation of seawater on coral calcification. Glob. Planet. Change 18, 37-46.

Jacobson, M. Z. (2005). Studying ocean acidification with conservative, stable numerical schemes for nonequilibrium air-ocean exchange and ocean equilibrium chemistry. J. Geophys. Res. Atm. 110, D07302.

Kleypas, J.A., R.A. Feely, V.J. Fabry, C. Langdon, C.L. Sabine, and L.L. Robbins. (2006). Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs and Other Marine Calcifiers: A Guide for Further Research, report of a workshop held 18-20 April 2005, St. Petersburg, FL, sponsored by NSF, NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey, 88pp.

Kolbert, E. (2006). The Darkening Sea: What Carbon Emissions Are Doing to the Sea. The New Yorker. 11 November 2006.

Orr, J. C. et al. (2005). Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms. Nature 437, 681-686.

Raven, J. A. et al. (2005). Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. Royal Society, London, UK.

Riebesell, U. et al. (2000). Reduced calcification of marine plankton in response to increased atmospheric CO2. Nature 407, 364-367 (Subscription required).

Ruttiman, J. (2006). Sick Seas. Nature 442, 978-980. (Subscription required)

Sabine, C. L. et al. (2004). The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2. Science 305, 367-371.


Further Reading on Deep Sea Carbon Sequestration Experiments:

Barry, J.P., K.R. Buck, C.F. Lovera, L. Kuhnz, P.J. Whaling, E.T. Peltzer, P. Walz, P.G. Brewer (2004) Effects of direct ocean CO2 injection on deep-sea meiofauna. Journal of Oceanography. In Press.

Brewer, P.G. (2004) Direct injection of CO2 in the ocean. In: “Toward CO2 Stabilization: Issues, Strategies, and Consequences” C. Field and M. R. Raupach, eds. Island Press. 469-478.

Brewer, P.G., E.T Peltzer, I. Aya, P. Haugan, R. Bellerby, K. Yamane, R. Kojima, P. Walz, Y. Nakajima. (2004) Small scale field study of an ocean CO2 plume. Journal of Oceanography. In Press.

Brewer, P.G., E.T. Peltzer, P. Walz, I. Aya, K. Yamane, R. Kojima, Y. Nakajima, N. Nakayama, P. Haugan, T. Johannessen. (2005) Deep Ocean Experiments with fossil fuel carbon dioxide: creation and sensing of a controlled plume at 4 km depth. J. Mar. Res., 63, 9-33.

Caldeira, K., M. Akai, P. Brewer, B. Chen, P. Haugan, T. Iwama, P. Johnston, H. Kheshgi, Q. Li, T. Ohsumi, H. Poertner, C. Sabine, Y. Shirayama, and J. Thomson, 2005. Ocean Storage. In: (B. Metz and O. Davidson, eds.) Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage: A Special Report of IPCC Working Group III, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.

Nakayama, N., E.T. Peltzer, P. Walz, P.G. Brewer. (2005) First results from a controlled deep-sea CO2 perturbation experiment: evidence for rapid equilibration of the oceanic CO2 system at depth. J. Geophys. Res., 110, C09S11, doi:10.1029/2004JC002597.

Thistle, D., L. Sedlacek, K. R. Carman, J. W. Fleeger, P. G. Brewer, and J. P. Barry (2005) Simulated sequestration of industrial carbon dioxide at a deep-sea site:  effects on harpacticoid-copepod species. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. In Press.

Riestenberg, D., C. Tsouris, P. G. Brewer, E.T. Peltzer, P. Walz, A. Chow, E. Adams. (2005) Field Studies on the Formation of Sinking CO2 Particles for Ocean Carbon Sequestration: Effects of Injector Geometry on Particle Density and Dissolution Rate and Model Simulation of Plume Behavior. Environ. Sci. Technol., 39, 7287-7293.