The continuing acidification of the Arctic Ocean is projected to have significant ecological and socio‐economic impacts over coming decades, with consequences both for local communities and globally.
This is the overarching finding of the 2018 Arctic Ocean Acidification assessment, presented at the 2018 Arctic Biodiversity Congress.
Increasingly acidic ocean conditions can affect marine organisms in a variety of ways.
Some may experience altered growth, development or behavior if exposed to low pH at certain life stages. Others may experience indirect effects, such as changes in their food web structures or predator–prey relationships. Falling ocean pH levels – which are changing most quickly in the Arctic – are acting in tandem with other environmental stressors, such as rising air and sea temperatures, to drive significant changes in marine ecosystems, with impacts on the communities that depend upon them.
The assessment presented the findings from five case studies:
- Norwegian kelp and sea urchins
- Barents Sea cod
- Greenland shrimp fishery
- Alaska’s fishery sector
- Arctic cod in Western Canadian Arctic
Overall, the case studies show that effects of acidification, in combination with other stressors, are highly uncertain. This uncertainty underscores the urgent need for increased monitoring in the region, and for research that looks at the effects on species of a number of environmental stressors acting in combination.
It is not only ecosystems and societies in the Arctic that are set to be impacted by ocean acidification in the region. The assessment also reviewed evidence that low‐pH waters are being exported to shelf regions of the North Atlantic, which are biologically productive and support important commercial fisheries.
The full report can be downloaded here.