Implementing national or global policies to drastically reduce global carbon emissions is the most critical step towards reducing the effects of ocean acidification. Reduced calcification has occurred in most species of coral and other calcifying organisms at the current concentration of CO2, and predictions for a doubling or tripling of present CO2 levels show an even more dramatic drop in calcification rates1.
The single most important strategy for the future of coral reefs is to reduce the amount of climate change that occurs. Preventing massive damage to ecosystems on a global scale cannot be done without reducing greenhouse gas emissions and taking steps to slow down global climate change.
The Honolulu Declaration
In response to the urgent challenge of ocean acidification, The Nature Conservancy convened a workshop for ocean experts in Honolulu, Hawaii, in August 2008. The workshop included coral reef managers, oceanographers, climate experts, and marine scientists. The goal of the workshop was to develop the foundation for adaptation strategies that marine managers can implement to address the impacts of ocean acidification.
The final workshop report, called The Honolulu Declaration on Ocean Acidification and Reef Management, outlines a suite of policy and management practices that will guide the initial and urgent steps required to give coral reefs the best chance of coping with ocean acidification2.
The Declaration stresses that two major strategies must be implemented urgently and concurrently to mitigate the impacts of climate change and to safeguard the value of coral reef systems:
- Limit fossil fuel emissions
- Build the resilience of tropical marine ecosystems and communities to maximize their ability to resist and recover from climate change impacts
Marine scientists who met in Monaco in October 2008 released a strong statement on January 30, 2009 about ocean acidification accelerating due to increasing carbon emissions caused by human-induced climate change. The Declaration calls on Governments to take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions. Over 150 marine scientists from 26 countries signed the Monaco Declaration warning that “ocean acidification could affect marine food webs and lead to substantial changes in commercial fish stocks, threatening protein supply and food security for millions of people as well as the multi-billion dollar fishing industry.”3
The Declaration urges policymakers to launch four types of initiatives:
- To help improve understanding of impacts of ocean acidification by promoting research
- To help build links between economists and scientists that are needed to evaluate the socioeconomic extent of impacts and costs for action versus inaction
- To help improve communication between policymakers and scientists so that a) new policies are based on current findings and b) scientific studies can be widened to include the most policy-relevant questions
- To prevent severe damages from ocean acidification by developing ambitious, urgent plans to cut emissions drastically