Arctic cod pictured in northern Norway in 2018. The increase in ocean CO2 has caused average ocean surface acidity to increase by 30 per cent since the beginning of the industrial revolution, according to a new UN report. (Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images)

Increasing ocean acidification ushering in an era of uncertainty for Arctic, says report

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Eye on the Arctic brings you stories and newsmakers from around the North. 

If left unchecked, acidification levels in the Arctic Ocean will have significant consequences for northern communities as well as the rest of the globe says a report released this week.

The report, 2018 Arctic Ocean Acidification Assessment, was put together by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), a working group of the Arctic Council,  and was released at the  2018 Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Rovaniemi, Finland on Wednesday.

The assessment was based on a series of case studies from different regions of the Arctic including Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway and the Barents Sea. In all cases, they projected unchecked acidification levels would have grave impacts on all areas in coming years.

“Overall, the case studies show that effects of acidification, in combination with other  stressors, are highly uncertain,” said AMAP in a news release. “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.”

Areas studied for AMAP assessment

Alaska: Impacts of acidification on fisheries in different regions of the state

Barents Sea: Effects of fishing, climate warming and acidification on cod

Canada: Potential effects of climate change and ocean acidification on polar cod and the Indigenous communities that rely on the fish for country food

Greenland: Effect of acidification on shrimp fishing and socio‐economic implications of those changes

Norway:  How ocean acidification and  warming might impact sea urchin yields

Acidification impacts

Rising ocean acidification is primarily driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Changing ocean chemistry has a suite of cascading impacts: it can interrupt the food chain, alter predator-prey relationships and can even impact how marine life develops. The impacts of this in fragile environments like North, are particularly worrying, AMAP says.

“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,” they said.

Assessing environmental threats

AMAP, like other Arctic Council working groups, are made of up experts that come together to examine particular areas of concern in the North. AMAP’s mandate is to assess polltion threats and their affects on Arctic peoples and the environment and to give advice to Arctic ministers on actions needed to respond and mitigate some of these threats.

The report released this week is an update to a previous 2013 AMAP assessment.

Around four-hundred and fifty experts are attending the Arctic Biodiveristy Congress in Rovaniemi.

The conference ends October 12.

Feature Interview

Finland’s Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen (pictured right in 2016 with Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and the Environment Sharon Dijksma in Brussels) hosted a two-day Arctic Environment Ministers’ meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland this week.(Emmanuel Dunand /AFP/Getty Images)

Listen here for Eye on the Arctic‘s conversation with Finland’s Environment Minister Kimmo Tiilikainen for more about the conferences that took place in Finnish Lapland this week and the environmental issues facing the Arctic:

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

First published on www.rcinet.ca on October 13th 2018

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Thawing permafrost in Canada’s Northwest Territories releasing acid that’s breaking down minerals: study, CBC News

Finland: Arctic environment ministers gather in Finland to tackle climate change, biodiversity & pollution, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland:  Glacier half the size of Manhattan breaks off Greenland, CBC News

Iceland: Scientists puzzled by right whale’s appearance off Iceland, CBC News

Norway: Thawing permafrost melts ground under homes and around Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic coastal town of Dikson is fastest-warming place in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Warm temperatures lasting into autumn across Sweden, Radio Sweden

United States: New study predicts ‘radical re-shaping’ of Arctic landscape by 2100, CBC News

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One comment on “Increasing ocean acidification ushering in an era of uncertainty for Arctic, says report
  1. Avatar Peter Ashcroft says:

    There is a worldwide responsibility for sustainable living.
    Local changes can have a global effect which can be detrimental.
    Beneficial changes in Arctic utilisation is but one part of a jigsaw that is good, not just for the present generation, but those that follow.