Ocean Acidification

Photo: Ocean waves

The Ocean Acidification Research Programme is a five-year collaborative programme with a budget of £12 million funded by NERC, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC).

The overall aim of the research programme is to provide a greater understanding of the implications of ocean acidification and its risks to ocean biogeochemistry, biodiversity and the whole Earth system. The programme will also provide effective policy advice and make a significant contribution to the Living With Environmental Change programme.

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The Ocean Acidification Research Programme directly relates to delivery of the NERC strategy (in particular the Earth system science and biodiversity science themes) and the UK government's strategic objectives with respect to the adaptation to, and mitigation of, climate change and ensuring a healthy, resilient, productive and diverse natural environment.

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are increasing as a result of human activity and are likely to continue to do so in the future, although the future levels of CO2 are uncertain. In response to this rise, the oceans are taking up more CO2 and becoming more acidic. The associated increases in ocean acidity over coming decades are likely to be at a rate and on a scale that is unprecedented in at least the last 20 million years.

It is likely that large areas of the ocean could become under-saturated with respect to at least aragonite (one of two common polymorphs of biologically produced calcium carbonate) within this century. Under such conditions, organisms creating aragonite skeletons face serious challenges.

This acidification will clearly have major impacts on ocean biogeochemistry and biodiversity, but impacts will extend beyond this to the whole Earth system via impacts on air-sea gas exchange and sedimentation of material through the oceans. The scale and nature of the effects of acidification on marine systems and more widely are very poorly known.

It is proposed that this research programme will run for five-years. Research programme activities will be focused on the North-East Atlantic (including European shelf and slope), Antarctic and Arctic Oceans, and will include the effects of acidification on biochemistry and biodiversity, past responses to acidification, ecosystem structure and function, habitats and species, and socio-economic implications.


2009 - 2014

Can I apply for a grant?

No, all funding rounds are closed.


This programme has a budget of £12 million funded by NERC, Defra and DECC.

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our online grants browser - Grants on the Web.

View details of funded grants - external link

View details of funded studentships - external link

Programme Executive Board (PEB)

The UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme will be managed by NERC Swindon Office in close coordination with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra, Marine Strategy and Evidence Sub programme), and the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC). The PEB will be chaired by NERC and the membership will include representatives from Defra and DECC.

Programme Advisory Group (PAG)

The Programme Advisory Group (PAG) will advise the PEB on the delivery of the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme and will work closely with the Science Coordinator and the Knowledge Exchange Coordinator.

Programme Advisory Group membership:

  • Professor Harry Elderfield (Chair), University of Cambridge
  • Professor Eric Achterberg, University of Southampton
  • Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso, CNRS - UPMC - Observatoire Océanologique de Villefranche
  • Dr Angela Hatton, The Scottish Association for Marine Science
  • Professor Mike Heath, University of Strathclyde
  • Professor John Raven, University of Dundee
  • Dr Ulf Riebesell, IFM-GEOMAR
  • Dr Steve Widdicombe, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
  • Dr Andrew Yool, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

Programme Management Team (PMT)

  • Jessica Surma (Programme manager), NERC
  • Dr Tarquin Dorrington (Programme manager), Defra
  • Dr Ken Wright (Programme manager), DECC
  • Dr Mike Webb (Executive officer), NERC
  • Dr Lisa Hole (Programme administrator), NERC

Science Coordinator

Dr Phil Williamson, University of East Anglia

Knowledge Exchange Coordinator

Dr Carol Turley, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

The following documents and links are related to or give more information about this programme.

Science Plan (PDF, 204KB)

Implementation Plan (PDF, 229KB)

Annex 1: BIOACID Programme (PDF, 5.2MB)

EPOCA workplan (PDF, 5.4MB)

For information on, and access to, historical marine collections for ocean acidification research please visit the Natural History Museum's historical marine collections - external link site.