How will ocean acidification impact ecosystems and chemical cycles in UK and Arctic regional seas?

Ocean acidification is almost certain to have a detrimental impact on marine systems, however the precise nature and magnitude of the impact is as yet unknown. Predicting future states for regional shelf seas is a particular challenge as the chemistry of CO2 is tightly coupled with the very strong physical and biological dynamics typical to such regions. Shelf seas are also the major provider of marine resources, making an understanding of their evolution over the next 100 years vital.

Our principal objective is to develop novel scientific model based knowledge detailing the magnitude and timescale of risks of both ocean acidification and climate change for regional seas.

We will focus on two regions, the shelf seas surrounding the UK and north west Europe, which have huge resource relevance, and the Arctic which is at early risk of significant impacts with ramifications for the Earth system. We have three generic scientific objectives:

  • Improve certainty in predictions of carbonate chemistry, other key indicators and ecological niche distribution.
  • Provide an improved quantification and understanding of the exchange of carbon (dioxide) between shelf and oceanic environments.
  • Quantify the range of ecosystem consequences arising from OA and co-drivers.

A further objective is to generate a step-change in the UK modelling capability of Arctic coupled bio-physical systems, building on initial work in the Arctic domain and crucially using our collective experience in UK carbon cycle shelf modelling to facilitate this.

The research will help inform policy areas, including the folllowing:

  • Policy makers and government agencies and regulators related to environment and energy policy and to marine activities
  • Conservation agencies
  • Environmental NGOs and the general public
  • Research communities and key players in international and national ocean acidification and climate change related programmes
  • Inter governmental organisations
  • Organisations with commercial and non-commercial interests in maintaining healthy marine systems

Our results will be delivered directly to policy makers (such as Defra and DECC) and will underpin the development of national and international mitigation and adaptation strategies. We will deliver: quantified estimates of impacts with uncertainty estimates relevant to UK and international policy, management and public bodies in line with the overall Ocean Acidification Research Programme’s dissemination policy.

Our work will be explicitly linked to new climate scenarios developed by the Met Office Hadley Centre for UK Government. We will contribute information to a range of stakeholders including the general public that clarifies the potential impacts of ocean acidification and climate change on the regional seas in question.

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