Scientists Explore the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on the Arctic Ocean
Scientists are setting sail on Aug. 25 to study ocean acidification in the Arctic and what this means for the future survival of marine and terrestrial organisms.
The Arctic Ocean is one of the most vulnerable places on the planet for acidification, yet it is the least-explored ocean. Acidification can disturb the balance of marine life in the world’s oceans, and consequently affect humans and animals that rely on those food resources.
Ocean acidification is particularly harmful to organisms such as corals, oysters, crabs, shrimp and plankton, as well as those up and down the food chain. Higher acidity decreases an organism’s calcification rate, meaning they lose their ability to build shells or skeletons.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is leading this project, and this is the third consecutive year of research. On this year's expedition, scientists will travel onboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy for four weeks, collecting water and ice samples.
"Ocean acidification is a particularly vexing problem associated with the release of CO2 into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels because it interferes with the ability of marine organisms to build hard shells of calcium carbonate," said USGS director Marcia McNutt.
"Comparatively more research has been devoted to the tropics, where coral reefs are threatened. This important expedition focuses on polar latitudes, where the acidification effects can cascade from microscopic organisms up to our economy, as the organisms at risk form the base of the food chain for some of the world's most productive fisheries."
Oceans currently absorb about one-fourth of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) increases in the atmosphere and is absorbed by the ocean. Ocean acidity will continue to rise as CO2 levels are projected to increase.
The Arctic Ocean's cold surface waters absorb CO2 more rapidly than warmer oceans, thus contributing to its vulnerability. This vulnerability is increased as the warming climate causes sea-ice to retreat and melt, leaving less of a buffer and more exposure of surface water to the atmosphere.
On the previous two cruises in 2010 and 2011, scientists collected more than 30,000 water samples and traveled throughout the Canada Basin up to very near the North Pole. Data from the cruises are currently being processed.
"This cruise offers us an opportunity to collect more information over a vast spatial extent of the Arctic Ocean," said USGS oceanographer and project chief Lisa Robbins.
"These data will provide a better understanding of the current patterns of acidification and thus they will significantly contribute to society's efforts to understand, forecast, and potentially mitigate impacts to the Arctic ecosystem and its many globally important resources."
USGS field experiments on ocean acidification are currently being run in tropical, temperate, and polar environments, including the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, Virgin Islands and the Arctic Ocean.
"Sampling from a variety of environments is providing a robust dataset to give us an overall picture of ocean chemistry changes," said USGS oceanographer Kim Yates.
People interested will be able to track this year's expedition and follow the research team's cruise journal during their voyage. Additionally, a slideshow on USGS Arctic acidification research is available online.
"This study is a collaborative effort and could not be accomplished without the strong partnership the USGS has with Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Jonathan Wynn and Dr. Robert Byrne from the University of South Florida," said Robbins.
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>
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