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Professor Steve Widdicombe on ABC Radio: Ocean Acidification impacts on marine ecosystems

1 March 2023

Our Director of Science Professor Steve Widdicombe was featured on the Australian Radio Station ABC this week to discuss the impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems, including the threat it poses to the world’s biggest fishing region, Asia. 

He said: “Ocean acidification is happening in all the world’s oceans, and the oceans are acidifying at a much faster rate than they were 20 years ago." 

“Around 25% of all the carbon dioxide we produce every year, that we send into the atmosphere, then ends up in the ocean. And it then reacts with the seawater and dissolves, and in doing so changes the chemistry; it reacts with water molecules to create a weak acid called carbonic acid, and that is the chemical that’s driving this phenomena called ocean acidification.” 

“The ocean has been doing its very best to help us. This is actually a natural process in which carbon cycles around the planet, from the geology into the atmosphere, back into the oceans, and then creating rocks again at the bottom of the sea.” 

“But what is happening now is that the ocean can’t do it quickly enough at the rate at which we are putting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And not only are the oceans trying their best to help us, the more that we impact upon them, the harder we make that job for them.” 

“So, what do we do? Well, first we need to stop emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s our first step to trying to address this problem. But, there are other things we can also do. There are natural processes in natural habitats things, we call ‘Blue Carbon’ habitats. So: seagrasses, and mangroves, and saltmarshes, which trap carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock them away into the into the sediment. So, they sequester that carbon for us. So, it’s important that we protect and restore those habitats and allow them to do those natural processes.” 

“There are other processes that work in the open ocean where phytoplankton ‘fix’ the carbon dioxide that’s available and turn it into organic matter, and that filters down into the deep ocean. Again, we need to make sure we keep and maintain a healthy ocean ecosystem to allow them to do that.” 

“And then finally, there’s adaptation and resilience, we talked about the importance of human communities, but we need to make sure that we create communities that are resilient to the changes that are coming.” 

“So, in essence what we are trying to do is, we need to stop carbon dioxide production. We need to protect those parts of the natural ecosystems that naturally sequester carbon dioxide. And we also have to build resilience and create adapation strategies to be able to deal with it.” 

Listen to the full interview here >> 

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