The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program (AMAP) working group has released the first ever comprehensive assessment of Arctic Ocean acidification. The assessment was approved at the Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna 15 May 2013. In the Kiruna declaration Ministers welcomed the assessment and also requested that Arctic States continue to take action on mitigation and adaptation as well as continue to monitor and assess the state of Arctic Ocean acidification.
Ocean acidification – a long-term decline in seawater pH – is a result of oceans absorbing large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted to the air by human activities. The Arctic Ocean is rapidly accumulating CO2 leading to increased ocean acidification. This ongoing change impacts Arctic marine ecosystems that are already affected by rising temperatures and melting sea ice.
The assessment points out, among other things, that:
- The Arctic Ocean is particularly sensitive. CO2 is more readily absorbed into cold water and the increasing amounts of fresh water entering the Arctic Ocean from rivers and melting ice are reducing the Arctic Ocean’s capacity to neutralize acidification.
- Widespread acidification is occurring in the central Arctic Ocean and its surrounding seas. Ocean acidification is being observed at monitoring sites across the region, especially in surface waters.
- Because Arctic marine food webs are relatively simple, Arctic marine ecosystems are vulnerable to change when key species are affected by external factors.
- When marine ecosystems are impacted this also has consequences for people. Arctic Ocean acidification has the potential to affect both commercial fisheries that are important to northern economies, and marine resources that are used by Arctic indigenous people.