Research Obstacles

Future research will include work on coral reefs. Credit: treehugger.com.

Ocean acidification research has happened piecemeal over the last decade. Moving forward, the biggest challenge will be coordinating this work internationally. One obstacle is the sheer number of marine organisms that could be studied. Another is untangling the effects of climate change. Ocean acidification is not happening in isolation. Coral reefs, for example, are under attack from warming waters, overfishing and other stressors. Further, there is a need for more facilities with the capacity to conduct high-quality carbonate chemistry measurements not just on the actual ocean environment setting, but also on marine organisms.

There are several research programs worldwide such as the European Project on Ocean Acidification, or EPOCA, an initiative funded by the European Commission to investigate “ocean acidification and its consequences” which involves 29 laboratories in nine European countries, and the National Institute for Water and Atmosphere (NIWA) in New Zealand that examines “acidification impacts on ocean chemistry, algal calcification, and phytoplankton production and community function.” (Ocean Acidification, 2009)

These and other research groups are up against several challenges. There are no set guidelines for measuring the different elements within the ocean being affected by CO2 levels. For example, not even the ocean acidity can be agreed upon because often, different pH scales are used in experiments which are not documented in the experiment methodology. There is often not enough information provided about the environmental conditions of the area where the experiment was carried out, and there are many more problems that result from various, non-standardized experimental approaches which limit conversation and communication between disciplines.

Basically, there is no consensus on how to go about doing research, which limits the validity of findings. Without solid, largely agreed-upon findings that show the ocean is being damaged, and that the damage is going to have negative impacts on the human population and the rest of the environment, it is difficult to propose policy changes. (Orr et al., 2009)

Whatever the limitations to research, the problem of ocean acidification is real and there is a growing pressure for policy makers to act. The Monaco Declaration, signed in January 2009 by and based off the findings of 155 scientists from 26 different nations, warns the world of the repercussions of ocean acidification and offers courses of action for addressing the problem. (Buck & Folger, 2009)

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