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Ocean tipping points research launched

Posted October 10, 2019

Scientists from around the world have come together to take on new research into tipping points in our oceans.

As pressure on the world’s ecosystems mounts, a team of 32 partners from nine European countries along with South Africa, India, and Canada have formed a team focusing on preventing irreversible change to our seas.

Launching at the University of Bergen this week, the 8 million EURO EU Horizon 2020 project will quantify cycles of carbon, oxygen and nutrients in order to define ‘safe operating spaces in the ocean’ with respect to global ecosystem tipping points. Such tipping points are critical points where man-made forces become significant enough to cause a large ecosystem change.

Clear blue ocean water. Image credit: Tyler Lastovich via Pexels (Free Pexels licence)

Clear blue ocean water. Image credit: Tyler Lastovich via Pexels (Free Pexels licence)

The results will help provide ‘guardrails’ for political and logistical decisions aimed at combatting and avoiding dangerous climate change and contribute to future IPCC reports.

The research will also ask what feasible pathways exist to limit damage.

Current greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are focused on sea temperature rise, but researchers believe these limits may not be sufficient to avoid the spreading of low oxygen dead zones in the oceans and to avoid severe damage due to ocean acidification. Such changes would have severe impact also on fish stocks such as tuna and coral reef fish. Part of this research aims to increase knowledge of these different tipping points with the ultimate aim of preventing them.

Led by Christoph Heinze, University of Bergen and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, the project launched this week in Bergen.

Professor Heinze said: “The results will provide guardrails for political and logistical decisions on combatting and avoiding dangerous climate change. We will propose revised scenarios for greenhouse gas emission reductions in order to limit the damage to ocean systems. These revisions will consider the timing and the amount of greenhouse gas reductions, and include options for realising negative carbon dioxide emissions.”

Professor Nick Graham of Lancaster University is part of the research team.

He said: “Our oceans are changing in diverse and dramatic ways due to human induced climate change. This project, bringing together experts and institutions across Europe, will identify key thresholds that need to be avoided.”

“The project is multidisciplinary, enabling us to understand how our oceans are changing from chemical, oceanographic, fisheries and ecological perspectives.”

Source: Lancaster University

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