28/04/2009

£11m To Protect Seas From Climate Change

A five-year, £11million study into the effects of climate change on Britain's seas has been announced as scientists warn of more acidic seas affecting the food chain.

Ocean acidity, caused by increased amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the sea, has risen 30 per cent in the last 200 years, faster than any time in the last 65million years, with serious implications for sealife and our climate, according to a new report.

The sea absorbs CO2 in the atmosphere but over time as emissions have increased it has become more acidic, which means not only will it absorb less CO2 in future but that corals, plankton, shellfish and other vital links in the food chain will be under threat.

Now Defra is jointly funding a major research programme with the Natural Environment Research Councils (NERC). It will concentrate on the North East Atlantic, Antarctic and Arctic oceans and study the effects of acidification on biodiversity, habitats, species and wider socio-economic implications.

Huw Irranca-Davies, Minister for the Natural & Marine Environment, said: "Ocean acidification will be one of the biggest environmental concerns of this century, with major and far-reaching impacts.

"We need to understand much more about the scale and nature of the effect CO2 is having on our oceans and marine life."

The report by the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership, published today, also highlights how many small effects of climate change are being magnified through important links with the marine environment, and how distant events such as melting Arctic sea ice may affect people, wildlife and the environment in the UK.

(JM/BMcC)

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