From 2nd to 5th April, over 100 researchers from ten European countries are meeting in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat for the closing meeting of the EPOCA project (European Project on Ocean Acidification), coordinated by the CNRS. The meeting will mark the end of the first major international project studying the impact of our CO2 emissions on marine organisms and ecosystems.
Carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) due to human activities are growing exponentially and have a well-known effect on the climate. However, it is less well-known that their absorption by the ocean leads to an inexorable acidification of sea water.
But what impact does this phenomenon have on marine organisms and ecosystems?
The European EPOCA project, launched in May 2008, aims to improve our understanding of ocean acidification, study its consequences on marine biology, predict these consequences over the coming century and issue recommendations to policy-makers. Coordinated by Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a CNRS researcher at the Oceanographic Laboratory of Villefranche-sur-Mer (LOV), the programme has brought together 32 partners from across 10 European countries (Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland). The programme has had a budget of 16.5 million euros over 4 years, including 6.5 million euros financed by the European Union.
EPOCA researchers have published more than 150 articles during the project.
Among the discoveries:
- key marine organisms such as deep-sea corals and pteropods (planktonic snails) could be profoundly affected by ocean acidification in the coming years. A study conducted at LOV shows that the pteropod Limacina helicina builds its shell at a 30 % slower speed when it is kept in seawater which has the characteristics expected in 2100. An even greater reduction (50 %) was measured in the cold-water corals Lophelia pertusa.
- calcareous phytoplankton, an important link in the ocean carbon cycle, seems highly sensitive to acidification. A study involving CNRS researchers (CEREGE, Aix en Provence) showed that secretions from the calcareous plates of a microalgae species called coccolithophores, decrease as marine waters become more acidic, but certain hyper-calcified strains have adapted to the most corrosive environments. Their results were published on 4th August 2011 in the journal, Nature.
- some calcifying organisms (mussels, shellfish and corals) protect their shell or skeleton from the corrosive action of sea water. This gives them an extraordinary ability to withstand ocean acidification. Nevertheless, this is reduced when these organisms are exposed to a high temperature (greater than 28.5°C) over a long period. Results which suggest that the expected warming of the Mediterranean Sea, coupled with the acidification of its waters, will increase the mortality rate in these organisms.
- a group of German, Norwegian and English researchers have discovered disturbing results for commercial fishing. Significant damage in several vital organs in cod larvae were observed when larvae were subjected to the CO2 conditions expected by the end of the century.
- the results of one of the project’s key experiments, a campaign in Spitzbergen in summer 2010 are still being analysed. During this campaign, nine “mesocosms”, a kind of giant test tube, were deployed in the Ny-Alesund fjord (Kongsfjorden). In these giant, 17 metre-high tubes containing approximately 50m3 of sea water, planktonic communities were subjected to levels of CO2 concentrations corresponding to the different evolution scenarios anticipated over the coming century.
Monday 2nd April 2012:
2.00pm: Welcome speech by Jean-Marie Flaud,
Director of the INSU Ocean-Atmosphere
2.30pm – 5.30pm: Presentations by EPOCA Members
6.00pm: Cocktail reception
Tuesday 3rd April to Thursday 5th April 2012:
EPOCA Meeting and Scientific Forum
For more information:
The EPOCA project website: www.epoca-project.eu
The website of the Oceanological Observatory of Villefranche-sur-Mer
Access map for Saint Jean Cap Ferrat – Club Vacances Delcloy
Le site de l’Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche-sur-Mer