Ocean Acidification

Programme overview

The overall aim of the research programme was to provide a greater understanding of the implications of ocean acidification and its risks to ocean biogeochemistry, biodiversity and the whole Earth system.

Background & objectives

The Ocean Acidification Research Programme was 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).

Atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased 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.

Research programme activities were focused on the North-East Atlantic (including European shelf and slope), Antarctic and Arctic Oceans, and included the effects of acidification on biochemistry and biodiversity, past responses to acidification, ecosystem structure and function, habitats and species, and socio-economic implications.

Reports & key findings

The overarching aim of the programme was delivered through the funding of projects to address the programmes 7 science deliverables as detailed in the Science Plan. A full list of awards can be found on Grants on the Web.

Science Plan (PDF, 204KB)

View details of funded grants - external link

View details of funded studentships - external link