Marine Conservation in a High-Carbon Dioxide World

Students work on the Hin Fai Biorock

Students work on the Hin Fai Biorock, an advanced form of active coral restoration

How can marine conservation keep up with climate change? That is the question asked in a new paper published by Grag Rau, Elizabeth McLeod, and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg. The authors of the paper analyzed the threats facing marine ecosystems due to changes in global climate and ocean acidity.

Their conclusions about climate change are very definitive, concise,  and unnerving. Global atmospheric carbon concentrations will hit 500 ppm by 2050, 80% higher than pre-industrial levels, and about 150 ppm higher than corals and other marine organisms can tolerate.Already incidences of coral bleaching due to high temperatures have become more frequent and severe, a trend which will continue into the future.

Current management techniques can alleviate some of the problems, but to be effective the levels of atmospheric carbon would have to be decreased. An unlikely objective to be reached. So they explore some unconventional means of restoration including shading reefs, electro-mineralization (Biorock), selective breeding, ‘gene’ banks, deep water carbon sequestration, and more.

The article is very interesting and contains great links to some very unique conservation methods which are in the experimental or trail phases. In conclusion to their findings they state:

“Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” Indeed, in the face of our continuing inability to stabilize atmospheric CO2 and with significant uncertainty as to marine species’ resiliency and adaptability to the effects of increasing CO2, we urge that the marine science and management communities actively solicit and evaluate all potential marine management strategies, including unconventional ones. . .

We support these new directions that marine science and conservation are moving in, and hope to remain on the cutting edge of such efforts. See our marine conservation page for more information on the methods we are using or developing and find out ways that you can join.

Find the full PDF version of the article at the link below:
Rau G.H., McLeod E.L., and Hoegh-Guldberg O. 2012. The Need for New Ocean Conservation Strategies in a High-Carbon Dioxide World. Nature Climate Change, Macmillan Publishers Ltd. DOI: 10.1038/NClimate1555.