6. September 2012

German research project on ocean acidification extended for a second three-year funding period

BIOACID II also analyses socio-economic impacts of ocean acidification

The German coordinated research project on ocean acidification BIOACID (Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification) is extended for another three-year funding period. Since September 2012, 14 institutions investigate how marine ecosystems react to ocean acidification, how this affects the food chain and the exchange of material and energy in the ocean and how the changes influence the socio-economic sector. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports the project with 8.77 million Euros. BIOACID is coordinated by GEOMAR | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.

The ocean absorbs a third of carbon dioxide (CO2) generated by the burning of fossil fuels – a priceless “service” reducing global warming. But chemical reactions in the seawater increase its acidity and reduce the availability of carbonate ions. Exactly these elements are needed by calcifying organisms – plankton, mussels, snails, crabs or corals – to build their shells and skeletons. Will they be able to adapt to the changes? At what price? How will the food web change?

„There is no doubt anymore that oceans acidify as a result of human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. But we have only a vague idea of the full extent of the consequences”, says Ulf Riebesell, Professor of Biological Oceanography at GEOMAR | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel. Riebesell has coordinated the work of the 14 partner institutions of BIOACID (Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification) since September 2009. In September 2012, a second three-year period starts funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with 8.77 million Euros.

Riebesell: “Building on the knowledge gained over the past three years we will further expand in some critical areas.” Important findings were, that many organisms are affected by ocean acidification particularly in their early life stages. For example, the development of cod larvae is negatively impacted. Long-term experiments demonstrated that some groups of organisms can adapt to ocean acidification. “A new focus of BIOACID II will be on ‘ocean services’ affected by acidification and who this impacts human welfare. When acting in combination with other stressors, such as overfishing, acidification can reduce the provision of food from the ocean considerably.”

The planned laboratory and field experiments will have a stronger focus on the interaction of multiple stressors. “BIOACID studies demonstrated that the influences of global warming and acidification are able to reinforce each other”, Riebesell explains. “Additional local stressors such as eutrophication or pollution could lead to reactions exceeding the sum of the individual responses.” In addition, ocean acidification impacts on competitive interactions and predator-prey relationships will be a focus of the upcoming work. BIOACID scientists will also benefit from analysing ecosystems which developed at natural CO2 venting sites. “Who are the winners and losers in a more acidified future ocean? How do elemental cycles change? These kind of questions can be answered by taking a closer look to natural communities.”

With the BIOACID II project, German research on ocean acidification continues its international top position. Crucially important for BIOACID’s leading role is the cooperation across institutions and scientific disciplines. In addition to the partnership of 14 institutions, BIOACID closely cooperates with other national and international research projects such as the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (UKOA) and the European project Mediterranean Sea Acidification in a Changing Climate (MedSeA), stakeholders such as the International Ocean Acidification Reference User Group (IOA-RUG) and the newly founded Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (OA-ICC).