Genesis of global observing network for ocean acidification

The foundations for an international initiative to collate and interpret ocean acidification and its effects have now been established, through a workshop hosted by the University of Washington, Seattle (26-28 June 2012).

Assessment of the importance of ocean acidification for organisms, ecosystems and ecosystem services needs observational data on the changes taking place around the world.  Making the measurements is only the first step: a structured system is needed to initially ensure their quality and comparability, and then to synthesise the data in order to derive information and knowledge.

Sponsors of the Seattle workshop included the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project (IOCCP) and the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). The initiative also has close links to the newly-announced International Coordination Centre for Ocean Acidification (OA-ICC), to be based in Monaco, and the Ocean Acidification Working Group of the Surface Ocean-Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS) and the Integrated Marine Biogeochemistry and Ecosystem Research (IMBER) programme. 

Such distinguished parentage is important: it not only gave the workshop scientific and political credibility, but also enabled it to build on existing relevant measurements and data synthesis systems (e.g. the Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas, SOCAT). Duplication of effort is thereby avoided, and added value maximised – both key concerns of funding agencies.

Major outcomes from the Seattle workshop comprised a mission statement for the nascent network; identification of standardised measurements (at different priority levels) and potential data products;  collation of information of existing and planned relevant observing activities (fixed stations, research ships and ships of opportunity); and discussion on gaps and how they might be filled. An interactive map of the current and planned OA observations is in preparation.  Its current status is online at www.pmel.noaa.gov/co2/OA2012Workshop, together with other background information on the workshop.

A Nature News article on the workshop is online at www.nature.com/news/global-network-will-track-acidifying-oceans-1.10922. The full scientific report is expected to be available for wider community discussion at the Ocean in a High CO2 World conference in Monterey in September 2012. 

Over sixty participants from 22 countries attended the Seattle workshop. UK representatives were from Cefas (David Pearce), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (Helen Findlay, Steve Widdicombe) and UEA (Ute Schuster, Phil Williamson). Phil Williamson has been asked to join a small Steering Group to take forward the further planning and implementation of this initiative.

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