Marine Scientist Talks of Challenges Posed by Ocean Acidification

A scientist with the federal Pacific Marine Environmental
Lab says rising ocean acidification is a complex problem posing a threat to
Alaska’s coastal waters, but if concerted, well-coordinated steps are taken,
Alaska’s fisheries are sustainable.
Jeremy Mathis summed up his message to participants in the
Alaska Marine Science Symposium in Anchorage on Jan. 22 like this: “The sky is
not falling, but we do know that there is a major catastrophic event coming if
changes are not implemented.”
Mathis, who is also an affiliate professor with the
Institute of Marine Science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, talked about
the dire affects of ocean acidification on calcifying species, which include
oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals and
calcareous plankton.
He noted that pteropods, a major food source for North
Pacific juvenile salmon, are also very sensitive to ocean acidification. These
tiny sea creatures are also eaten by a number of organisms ranging from krill
to whales. Mathis said scientists have already documented the effect of ocean
acidification on pteropods in oceans off of Antarctica and will begin a project
this year, with UAF scientists, to study how pteropods in the Gulf of Alaska
are reacting to changes in the pH of those waters.
Mathis says changes in the acidity of the marine environment
may affect respiration, calcification, photosynthesis and reproduction of
various marine organisms.
More information about this subject is posted at the Pacific
Marine Environmental Lab’s website:
New strategies of dealing with ocean acidification include
construction of multi-million dollar network of moorings that will be capable
of providing early warning data to stakeholders and policymakers throughout
Alaska and the rest of the country. Mathis said the first of two buoys for this
network are to be deployed in Alaska in February, funded through a $2.7 million
allocation from the Alaska Legislature. Information received by the Pacific
Marine Environmental Lab from these buoys will be posted online on the Alaska
Ocean Observing System website,