The term ocean acidification is used to describe the ongoing decrease in ocean pH caused by human CO2 emissions, such as the burning of fossil fuels. This is having an adverse effect on many important marine species such as corals, oysters, crabs and plankton, and due to the unprecedented rate of acidification they may not have time to evolve mechanisms to cope with the changing chemistry of the ocean.
PML scientists have been at the forefront of developing the science of ocean acidification and pivotal in placing the issues surrounding the science firmly onto the international agenda.
We are working to advance understanding of ocean acidification, from studies of how the chemistry of the ocean is changing to how marine organisms, biodiversity and ecosystems respond to ocean acidification, thus improving knowledge of their resistance or susceptibility to acidification, to help inform future management practices.
A key finding has been that the impact of ocean acidification is strongly dependent on interaction with other stressors associated with global change, notably temperature increases and we have shown that ocean acidification is having a marked effect upon ocean chemistry, most notably the nitrogen cycle and production of climate-relevant trace gases such as DMS and halocarbons.
We are also developing techniques to assess ocean acidification using satellites, which will enable monitoring on a global scale with a relatively low-cost when compared to in situ measurements.
Making a difference
Our research has raised the profile of ocean acidification and informed policy at an international level and has contributed to discussions at several major events including several UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, including providing input to the 2015 Paris agreement. At a national level, we gave extensive written and oral evidence to the recent UK parliamentary inquiry on ocean acidification.
PML also leads the European hub of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network.
Selected key publications
Queiros, AM; Fernandes, JA; Nunes, J; Rastrick, S; Mieszkowska, N; Artioli, Y; Yool, A; Calosi, P; Arvanitidis, C; Findlay, HS; Barange, M; Cheung, W; Widdicombe, S. 2015 Scaling up experimental ocean acidification and warming research: from individuals to the ecosystem. Global Change Biology, 21 (1). 130-143. 10.1111/gcb.12675
Hopkins, FE; Archer, SD. 2014 Consistent increase in dimethyl sulphide (DMS) in response to high CO2 in five shipboard bioassays from contrasting NW European waters [in special issue: Field investigation of ocean acidification effects in northwest European seas] Biogeosciences Discussions, 11. 2267-2303. 10.5194/bgd-11-2267-2014
Widdicombe, S; Spicer, JI. 2008 Predicting the impact of ocean acidification on benthic biodiversity: What can animal physiology tell us?. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 366. 187 - 197. 10.1016/j.jembe.2008.07.024
Related recent publications
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Stark, JS; Peltzer, ET; Kline, DI; Queiros, AM; Cox, TE; Headley, K; Barry, J; Gazeau, F; Runcie, JW; Widdicombe, S; Milnes, M; Roden, NP; Black, J; Whiteside, S; Johnstone, G; Ingels, J; Shaw, E; Bodrossy, L; Gaitan-Espitia, JD; Kirkwood, W; Gattuso, JP. 2019 Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (FOCE) experiments: Scientific and technical recommendations for future in situ ocean acidification projects. Progress in Oceanography, 172. 89-107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2019.01.006
Ingels, J; dos Santos, G; Hicks, N; Vazquez, YV; Neres, PF; Pontes, LP; Amorim, MN; Román, S; Du, Y; Stahl, H; Somerfield, PJ; Widdicombe, S. 2018 Short-term CO 2 exposure and temperature rise effects on metazoan meiofauna and free-living nematodes in sandy and muddy sediments: Results from a flume experiment. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 502. 211-226. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jembe.2017.07.012
Yuan, X; McCoy, SJ; Du, Y; Widdicombe, S; Hall-Spencer, JM. 2018 Physiological and Behavioral Plasticity of the Sea Cucumber Holothuria forskali (Echinodermata, Holothuroidea) to Acidified Seawater. Frontiers in Physiology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.01339
Hopkins, FE; Nightingale, PD; Stephens, JA; Moore, CM; Richier, S; Cripps, G; Archer, SD. 2018 Dimethylsulfide (DMS) production in polar oceans is resilient to ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussions. https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2018-55 (In Press)
Williamson, P; Turley, CM. 2016 How can we minimise negative effects on ocean health? Policy card E1-E2. AVOID and UKOA programmes, 2pp. (UNSPECIFIED)