Apr 25 2016

Ocean souring on climate change

climate

“This upwelling is both a blessing and a curse,” Chan said. “The upwelling injects nutrients that make our ocean so productive. That’s why Steinbeck wrote ‘Cannery Row.’ We live in a very special ocean. But the curse is that this upwelling creates low oxygen and low pH. So we’re much closer to any tipping points that could push us past a threshold.”

Although the causes and effects of ocean acidification and low oxygen are global, the panel found hopeful news about the potential to deal with it locally.

Seagrass beds and kelp forests are more productive than tropical forests, capturing more carbon than other systems on the planet. By restoring marine vegetation, scientists hope to raise pH and oxygen levels in key areas.

Curbing marine pollution can also improve ocean chemistry, scientists said. Runoff from farms and lawns, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, feed algal blooms that dump carbon and deplete oxygen from local waters. Cutting back on those pollutants can “put off a potential evil hour when carbon dioxide are so high” that they cause irreparable damage to marine life, Dickson said.

Efforts to battle ocean acidification and low oxygen on the West Coast will be test cases for dealing with the problem elsewhere, scientists said

“The West Coast will be a harbinger for the types of ocean acidification impacts that will be widely felt across coastal North America in the coming decades,” the report states.

Despite the gloomy news, Chan said he’s hopeful that a solution is at hand, noting that bills pending in the California Legislature — Assembly Bill 2139 and Senate Bill 1363 — would study ocean acidity and promote eelgrass restoration.

“I’m leaving with an optimistic note, which I tend not to as a scientist, but I think the people who make decisions get it, and are ready to do something,” he said.


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