Marine and Polar

Ocean Acidification

The oceans have absorbed between 24% and 33% of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions during the past five decades. While this uptake provides a valuable service to human societies by moderating the rate and severity of climate change, it comes at a cost for the oceans. The massive input of CO2 generates sweeping changes in the chemistry of seawater, especially on the carbonate system. These changes are collectively referred to as “ocean acidification” because increased CO2 lowers seawater pH (i.e. increases its acidity).
Coral Bleaching under water Okinawa,Japan

Chaired by Professor Dan Laffoley and Dr John Baxter (IUCN WCPA), the Ocean Acidification International Reference User Group (OA-iRUG) has been created as a forum to help convey scientific results on ocean acidification research programmes to non-scientific audiences and science end-users, in particular policy and decision makers. It also aims to highlight areas for further action to address impacts and consequences. The OA-iRUG was first applied to ocean acidification work as part of one of the world's first projects on ocean acidification - IMCO2 (The Implications of CO2 in Marine Ecosystems – 2004 - 2007) and most recently for the EPOCA Project (European Project on Ocean Acidification – 2008 for 4 years). As such the OA-iRUG is the longest running body of its type in the world connected to ocean acidification work. The OA-iRUG concept is simple but efficient: bringing together scientists and stakeholders from various backgrounds such as industry, governmental and non-governmental organizations, to allow networking and the presentation of key findings to interested non-scientific parties. The objectives are to examine in detail the types of data, analyses and products that are most useful to managers, policy advisers, decision makers and politicians in explaining ocean acidification; to take a major role in the process of ocean acidification science to policy knowledge transfer; and to help achieve wider society engagement and understanding of the implications of ocean acidification, in conjunction with other global environmental stressors such as warming and deoxygenation.

The EPOCA RUG enabled scientists to reach out to a different audience through a series of briefings and guides available in multiple languages, disseminated widely, and brought to international policy fora such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP). RUG members also fed back the findings of the project to their parent organizations. In 2010, the EPOCA RUG evolved to support and be supported by the three other main projects on ocean acidification at the time: the German project BIOlogical Impacts of Ocean ACIDification (BIOACID), the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (UKOA) and the European Union project Mediterranean Sea Acidification in a Changing Climate (MedSeA).

In 2013, the group transitioned to a truly global initiative thanks to the generous support of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and still continues its work championing ocean acidification challenges at regional scale today. The OAiRUG complements and supports the recent creation of the Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center (OA-ICC) in the International Atomic Energy Authority, also based in Monaco.

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