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University Professor To Lead Investigation On Rising Acidity In Oceans


Professor John Raven of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee has just been appointed chair of the Royal Society’s working group on ocean acidification. The task of the working group is to assess the available evidence on the extent of acidification in oceans and its impact on marine life.

The Royal Society, the UK’s academy of science is launching the working group and study because of concerns that the world’s oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, due to pollution from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Oceans ‘mop up’ carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and this, in turn, increases the acidity of the water. Rising levels of the gas from the unmanaged burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal may be exacerbating this. Professor Raven will contribute his specialist skills on how photosynthetic organisms acquire carbon to the working group’s investigation.

Currently, the impact of this rising ocean acidity on marine life is largely unknown. However, there are fears that it could particularly affect corals and sea creatures with hard shells. This is because acidification seems to decrease the availability of calcium carbonate from the water - which these creatures use to produce their hard skeletons. Increased acidity may also directly affect the growth and reproduction rates of fish, as well as affecting the plankton populations which they rely on for food, and have potentially disastrous consequences for marine food webs.

Professor Raven, a Principal Investigator in the Division of Environmental and Applied Biology said: “Our oceans may be doubly besieged. The same pollution that we believe is heating the world’s oceans through global warming is also altering their chemical balance. This study will look at what impact increased acidity levels might have on marine life and re-emphasise the urgent need to respond to the spectre of climate change, an issue identified by the UK Government as a priority for its Presidency of G8 in 2005.”

Angela Durcan | alfa
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