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Speed installation of system to monitor vital signs of global ocean, scientists urge

f the oceans associated with rising greenhouse gases in the air could in turn lead to lower retention of carbon dioxide at lower latitudes and to potential countervailing effects.

Says Foundation Director Dr. Peter Burkill: "Ocean acidification could have a devastating effect on calcifying organisms, and perhaps marine ecosystems as a whole, and we need global monitoring to provide timely information on trends and fluxes from the tropics to the poles. Threatened are tiny life forms that help the oceans absorb an estimated 50 gigatonnes of carbon from Earth's atmosphere annually, about the same as all plants and trees on land. Humanity has a vital interest in authoritative information about ocean conditions and a global network of observations is urgently needed."

Ocean conditions that require monitoring can be divided into three categories:

  • Chemical - including pollution, levels of oxygen, and rising acidity;

  • Physical / Geological - including sound, tide and sea levels, as well as sudden wave energy and bottom pressure changes that could provide precious minutes of warning before a tsunami; and

  • Biological - including shifts in marine species diversity, distribution, biomass and ecosystem function due to changing water conditions.

Benefits of the comprehensive ocean system envisioned include:

  • Improved short-term and seasonal forecasts to mitigate the harm caused by drought, or by severe storms, cyclones, hurricanes and monsoons, such as those that recently put one-fifth of Pakistan temporarily underwater and left 21 million people homeless or injured. International lenders estimate the damage to Pakistan's infrastructure, agriculture and other sectors at $9.5 billion. Improved weather forecasting would also enhance the safety of the fishing and shipping industries, and offshore operations such as wind farms and oil drilling. Sea surface temperature is a key factor in th

Contact: Terry Collins
Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans

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