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 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.
Ocean acidification is the ongoing decrease in the alkalinity of the Earth’s oceans, caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere. An estimated 30–40% of the carbon dioxide from human activity released into the atmosphere dissolves into oceans, rivers and lakes.
Researcher and scientists, Morgana Tagliarolo and Carla Edworthy led the team in a discussion of possible causes and how the public can help reduce CO₂ levels that dissolve to the ocean. Increased levels of ocean acidification can affect and reduce ocean reefs which are a 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 and have 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 of the students in an experiment with water, a solution and CO₂ to illustrate how the pH balance of the water changes when the students blow into the water by 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 starts with education and awareness and through decreasing our use of plastics, helping to put pressure on government to impose stricter environmental laws, restrict the burning of fossil fuels, decrease the emission of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, enforce stricter protection of biodiversity as well as many other simple conscientious activities in everyday life.