Group tests CO² effects on ocean at Kenton
TO CELEBRATE World Ocean Day on June 8, scientists who work for the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) in Grahamstown alongside researchers and Rhodes University students, visited Kenton Middle Beach to conduct an ocean acidification awareness campaign.
Ocean acidification is linked to climate change in that a negative aspect of carbon dioxide (CO²) in the atmosphere disrupts the natural order of ocean life.
The team of scientists and students also did a pH reading of the sea water at the Kenton beach and concluded that the pH was 8.4 and the water temperature was 15.9°C.
The majority of aquatic creatures prefer a pH range of 6.5-9.0, though some can live in water with pH levels outside of this range.
SAIAB received pH readings from the other institutions for 15 different sites around the South African coastline. The pH results ranged between 7.58 and 8.72.
“The aim of this event is to promote ocean acidification research in Africa and to communicate and educate the general public on ocean acidification as it is still poorly understood despite the considerable impact it is having on our local marine resources,” researcher and scientist, Morgana Tagliarolo said.
Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the alkalinity of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
An estimated 30 to 40% of the CO² from human activity released into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes.
Tagliarolo and fellow scientist, Carla Edworthy, led the team in a discussion of possible causes and how the public can help reduce CO² levels that dissolve in the ocean.
Increased levels of ocean acidification can affect and reduce ocean reefs which are significant in maintaining the natural biochemistry needed to allow a healthy ecosystem to remain intact for the species living in water.
“Pollution of the ocean is becoming a greater problem for our food supply,” Tagliarolo said.
Recently, a new continental network was established to promote communication and information sharing among scientists in the field of ocean acidification in Africa.
Twenty African countries and 10 South African institutes have already committed to and joined this initiative.
“The aim of this event is to promote ocean acidification research in Africa and to communicate and educate the general public on ocean acidification as it is still poorly understood despite the considerable impact it is having on our local marine resources”, Tagliarolo said.
“Education and awareness is key, and with education we can learn how we as humans can help and lessen the effect we have on the acidification of the ocean,” she said.
Tagliarolo also held a demonstration involving two students in an experiment with water, a solution and CO² to illustrate how the pH balance of the water changed when the students blew into the water using a straw.
Tagliarolo explained that the negative effect of poor ocean biochemistry will have a detrimental impact on the world’s oceans, coastal estuaries and waterways.
As to what ordinary people can do to help lessen the impact on ocean acidification, Tagliarolo said it started with education and awareness and through decreasing our use of plastics, helping to put pressure on government to impose stricter environmental laws, restricting the burning of fossil fuels, decreasing the emission of CO² in the atmosphere, enforcing stricter protection of biodiversity, as well as many other simple conscientious activities in everyday life.
OCEAN WARRIORS: Researchers and scientists, Morgana Tagliarolo and Carla Edworthy from the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) led a team of researchers and Rhodes University students in a discussion and practical reading of the ocean’s pH level at Kenton last Friday