Group tests CO² ef­fects on ocean at Ken­ton

Talk of the Town - - News - LOUISE CARTER

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.

Pic­ture: LOUISE CARTER

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

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