Honolulu responds to ocean acidification

News Report
Travis Quezon

Earlier this month, The Nature Conservancy presented the "Honolulu Declaration on Ocean Acidification and Reef Management"—a response to global carbon dioxide emissions. Marine scientists and environmentalists developed the declaration at a U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting in Kona, Hawai'i in August.

"Coral reefs are at the heart of our tropics, and millions of people around the world depend on these systems for their livelihoods," said Lynne Hale, director of The Nature Conservancy's Marine Initiative. "Without urgent action to limit carbon dioxide emissions and improve management of marine protected areas, even vast treasured reefs like the Great Barrier Reef and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will become wastelands of dead coral."

Ocean Acidification is the change in ocean chemistry driven by the absorption of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs nearly one-third of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and combines with sea water to form carbonic acid—lowering the oceans' pH and disrupting marine ecosystems and species.

If current carbon dioxide emission trends continue, the declaration states, the world's oceans will continue to undergo acidification to an extent that has not occurred for tens of millions of years. A doubling of the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is predicted to happen within the next 50 years.

In response to ocean acidification, the group of experts gathered by The Nature Conservancy have focused on two immediate needs: 1) to limit fossil fuel emissions, and 2) to build the resilience of tropical marine ecosystems and communities to maximize their ability to resist and recover from climate change impacts.

The strategy to achieving these goals involve reducing land-based sources of pollution that lower the ocean's pH, reducing all stresses on coral reefs, identifying high biodiversity coral reefs, and integrating data centers into existing data management systems such as Coral Reef Watch and the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center.

To read the entire declaration, visit the EPOCA website.