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IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (WESTPAC)

Advancing knowledge and cooperation for a healthy ocean and prosperous society

WESTPAC Scientists Step up Efforts to Combat Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidification is a direct threat to the lives, livelihoods and ecological health of the Asia-Pacific region, making long-term monitoring and better understanding of its causes and effects essential.

WESTPAC recently brought 46 scientists from the region together for an event aimed at stepping up efforts to develop a long-term program to monitor the ecological impacts of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems in the region.

The three-day WESTPAC event, held in Phuket, Thailand from 29-31 August 2016, featured expert discussions and practical demonstrations (in field or laboratory) aimed at reviewing and testing a set of consistent, comparable and cost-effective standard operating procedures that could be used to monitor the ecological impacts of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems.

While these efforts are focused on establishing a regional ocean acidification observation network, WESTPAC is striving for consistency and comparability as part of the Global Ocean Acidification – Observing Network (GOA-ON).

It is well known that the ocean has been becoming more acidic since it began absorbing anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the industrial revolution. Many studies have shown the harmful effects of acidification on ocean-based food security, as the lower pH levels make it more difficult for marine calcifying organisms, such as corals, molluscs and calcareous plankton, to form biogenic calcium carbonate (build shells and skeletons).

The implications of this shift in our oceans are immense in this region because the Western Pacific and adjacent regions are among the richest and most productive in the world in terms of marine life. Moreover, most Southeast Asian coastal communities are socially and economically dependent upon coral reef ecosystems and an estimated 70-90% of fish caught in Southeast Asia are dependent on coral reefs.

During the recent three-day event, scientists were updated on the latest developments in ocean acidification-related research and programs at the global level. They were also engaged in hands-on exercises related to seawater collection and handling for chemistry, Total Alkalinity (TA) and pH measurement, Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structures (ARMS) and Calcification Accretion Units (CAUs) recovery and processing. Participants then spent the final day developing concrete workplans for the next intersessional period.

The Sub-Commission would like to extend its sincere thanks to the National Commission of Thailand for UNESCO for the financial support provided for this and previous workshops, the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for its continued technical assistance in the development process, the Phuket Marine Biological Monitoring Center (PMBC) for excellent logistical arrangements and research facilities provided for all participants.