These changes have already led to consequences for a range of ocean species. A great many of them may be in danger of extinction before 2100 if emissions from human activity are not reduced.
Understanding of ocean acidification and the sea’s function as a carbon sink has improved in recent years. Since the mid-2000s, several international monitoring and research agencies have been established to monitor and predict how life in the oceans will evolve.
Climate change and ocean acidification is already affecting vital ocean ecosystems. One of the most frightening examples is the bleaching of major coral reefs. Large areas of the northern parts of the Great Barrier Reef are on the verge of dying. Coral bleaching in warmer waters is due largely to the water temperature becoming too high for the algae that live in symbiosis with the corals, so that the algae relocate. In addition to the fact that the increasing temperatures are killing corals, the same corals are also threatened by ocean acidification. The limestone structures in the coral are more difficult to form in a steadily more acidic ocean. Today, three-quarters of all corals are threatened in one way or another. We also know that 25 per cent of all fish in the world are dependent on corals. This means that the coral bleaching of today and tomorrow will have serious consequences for fish and other sea animals, and that larger areas of the ocean may be diminished by the destruction of the coral reefs.
Arctic species are in exodus. Many species are trying to migrate northwards as the Arctic is becoming warmer. New species are also moving into areas of the Arctic Ocean, where they can constitute a serious ecological threat towards native species. Rising ocean acidification, especially in the Arctic, is affecting many species to such an extent that it is changing the make-up of the Arctic ecosystem. In the northern parts of the Arctic, and in particular in association to the edge of the Arctic ice pack, there are utterly unique species that are dependent on the stability of conditions in the Arctic.
What can be done?
The ocean has had – and will continue to have – a vital role in the debate on climate emissions. So far, the ocean has acted as a buffer against greater increases in temperature, but the large absorption of CO2 is leading to warmer, more acidic oceans.
Most important of all is to stop the emissions of dangerous greenhouse gases and to move over to a 100 per cent renewable society.
The Arctic Ocean is vital for the global climate, for the protection of marine biodiversity, and for food security. Moreover, it constitutes the basis of existence for the people and societies of the Arctic. Therefore, the protection and preservation of the Arctic sea environment and biodiversity against climate change should be a top priority among the Arctic nations. This is best done by establishing a network of marine protection areas in the Arctic based on regions of great ecological value that contribute to the wider ecosystem’s resistance against climate change.
REV - Prioritized areas of research and innovation
The warming of the Arctic is happening twice as fast as other areas around the world. The research and expedition vessel, REV, will prioritize and facilitate research and cooperation that can:
- Identify regions of major ecological value that can contribute to strengthening the ecosystem against climate change.
- Measure to what extent animal life in the Arctic is vulnerable to different forms of human interference.
- Map the levels of environmental pollutants in Arctic marine mammals, seabirds and fish, divided by region.
- Map the levels of nanoplastics in the Arctic marine mammals, seabirds and fish, divided by region.