Ocean scientists from around the world have agreed to a framework to save the oceans from one of the great sleeper environmental issues of our day: Ocean acidification.
Like global warming, ocean acidification is caused primarily by human emissions of carbon dioxide. In the atmosphere, that carbon helps to trap heat near the Earth's surface. In the oceans, it makes the water more acidic.
That increasingly acidic water threatens the viability of plankton, at the base of the food chain, as well as coral, because the acidic conditions prevent the formation of calcium carbonate shells. Some studies suggest many coral reefs will have died due to acidification by the end of this century. Coral reefs are the nurseries of the oceans, producing abundant fish of diverse species -- making them hotspots for tourism, and important areas for the fishing industry. Scientists at the International Coral Reef Symposium this July declared ocean acidification the largest and most significant threat to oceans, a significant statement, considering the vast body of evidence that overfishing and other forms of pollution are taking a massive toll on ocean life.
Coral reefs are at the heart of our tropics, and millions of people around the world depend on these systems for their livelihoods. Without urgent action to limit carbon dioxide emissions and improve management of marine protected areas, even vast treasured reefs like the Great Barrier Reef and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands will become wastelands of dead coral, said Lynne Hale, director of The Nature Conservancys Marine Initiative.
The scientists, convened by The Nature Conservancy in August, have agreed to the "Honolulu Declaration on Ocean Acidification and Reef Management." Here are some of its key elements:
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