CBD Technical Series No. 75: An Updated Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity

 By Magdalena A K Muir


With a substantial amount of research through modeling, laboratory work and field studies released over the past few years, the report aims to give a clear synthesis of current knowledge on how ocean acidification is expected to affect marine life and, consequently, human society. The report acknowledges the complexity of estimating the ecological and financial costs, but suggests that losses to the world economy could amount to nearly US$1 trillion per year by 2100.
As highlighted in the report, tropical coral reefs alone support the livelihoods of 400 million people. These reefs, along with cold-water reefs, are highly vulnerable, putting dependent species at risk as well. The report shows that acidification will continue, even with substantial cuts to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as will its highly detrimental effects on marine ecosystems and organisms. The authors stress the importance of incorporating knowledge about acidification into policy making.
The Synthesis was launched at the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the CBD on 8 October 2014. A team of over 30 experts from around the world contributed to the report, which was reviewed by CBD Parties. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) supported the project.

From Forward:“Marine and coastal biodiversity – ecosystems, species and genetic material – provide enormous benefits for human well-being. Hundreds of millions of people rely directly on marine biodiversity for their livelihoods. Oceans are critical to many important global geo-chemical processes, such as climate regulation and carbon cycling. Ocean ecosystems provide critical life supporting services to the global population and underpin global productivity and well-being. However, the oceans are facing major threats due to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In addition to driving global climate change, increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide affect ocean chemistry, impacting marine ecosystems and compromises the health of the oceans and their ability to provide important services to the global community. The impacts of ocean acidification are beginning to be felt in some areas, but future projections indicate even more broad-reaching deleterious impacts if action is not taken…This report, CBD Technical Series No. 75, “An updated synthesis of the impacts of ocean acidification on marine biodiversity”, represents an enormous scientific effort by researchers and experts from around the world to synthesize the best available and most up-to-date information on the impacts of changing ocean pH on the health of the world’s oceans. Among other findings, the report notes that ocean acidification has increased by around 26% since pre-industrial times and that, based on historical evidence, recovery from such changes in ocean pH can take many thousands of years. The report outlines how ocean acidification impacts the physiology, sensory systems and behavior of marine organisms, and undermines ecosystem health. It, furthermore, shows that impacts due to ocean acidification are already underway in some areas and that future projected impacts could have drastic irreversible impacts on marine ecosystems. Despite the growing body of information on ocean acidification, the report points out key knowledge gaps and, in light of the many complex interactions related to ocean chemistry, stresses the difficulty of assessing how future changes to ocean pH will affect marine ecosystems, food webs and ecosystems, and the goods and services they provide. This report, which presents complex scientific information on ocean acidification in a clear and understandable way, provides an important reference point for scientists, policymakers and anyone else interested in understanding how ocean acidification affects our oceans and the vital services they provide. As the need for urgent action to address ocean acidification becomes ever more pressing, collaboration among governments and organizations in enhancing and sharing knowledge through efforts such as this report will become increasingly important.”

Further information:
CBD Technical Series No. 75: An Updated Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity  (Eds: S. Hennige, J.M. Roberts & P. Williamson). Montreal, Technical Series No. 75, 99 pages