Our oceans absorb a quarter of all human-based carbon emissions, causing a rise in ocean acidity. Consequences can be seen from the bleaching and break down of coral, to sensory and memory disruption in fish species. In a bid to tackle this threat, a landmark Ocean Acidification Research Framework has been produced, offering the only known end-to-end approach to research into ocean acidification for coral reefs.

The Framework, which was developed in a partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, CSIRO, Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Queensland –     Global Change Institute, was recently launched at the University of Queensland by Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

Since the publication of Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg’s PhD paper uncovering the molecular mechanism behind coral bleaching in 1999, interest in mitigating ocean acidification has grown.

Following introductions from Claire Hanratty, Managing Director GBRF and Associate Professor Eva Abal, Chief Scientific Officer GBRF, Professor Hoegh-Guldberg spoke about the uniqueness of the Ocean Acidification Framework. 

“The Framework is unique in that it recognises and identifies both short-term actions that need to be taken to protect the Reef, and the longer-term actions required to restore the Reef from the potential impacts of acidification,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“The first phase of the Framework will help us better understand how exposed the Reef is to increasing acidification. The next phase will build upon this understanding and investigate how reef organisms and ecosystems respond to acidification, further identifying the impacts to biological processes such as physiology, function, stress tolerance, adaptability and how these translate across reef ecosystems.

“This in turn will help identify knowledge gaps requiring further research allowing science to underpin the development of both long and short-term policy and practical solutions to address ocean acidification on the Great Barrier Reef.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said research had already commenced as part of the Framework and specific studies were already producing results.  

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Chief Scientific Officer, Associate Professor Eva Abal, said that climate change has long been identified as the greatest risk facing the Reef and vulnerability of the Reef to ocean acidification should not be overlooked.

This ongoing research will allow for the prediction of potential impacts of ocean acidification in tropical waters over the next 50 or 100 years’ timeframe.

“The Great Barrier Reef is a tremendously valuable asset, underpinning the current and future prosperity of sectors such as tourism and fisheries, and those supporting the protection of coastlines and the provision of carbonate sands,” she said.

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