[Coral-List] Matt Ridley's article in the Wall Street Journal

Gattuso, Jean-Pierre gattuso2 at obs-vlfr.fr
Tue Jan 10 12:31:47 EST 2012


Eugene Shinn mentioned Matt Ridley's article in the Wall Street Journal 
(http://tinyurl.com/77xnp24). Make sure that you also read the comments. 
I am appending below one of mine.

Jean-Pierre Gattuso


Matt Ridley does not provide an accurate account of ocean acidification 

I agree with him that some media have used catchy but inaccurate 
headlines and I often post comments on the ocean acidification blog 
(http://oceanacidification.wordpress.com/) to explain that the 
definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the 
properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7?. Despite the process 
of ocean acidification (the acidity of seawater has increased about 30% 
since preindustrial time), the oceans are alkaline (pH higher than 7) 
and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Hence, the "acid" 
or “acidic” should not be used when referring to seawater. Note that 
there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in the immediate 
vicinity of CO2 vents or in purposeful perturbation experiments.

That being said, and in contrast to Matt Ridley's statements, ocean 
acidification does impact marine organisms and ecosystems. Some seem to 
benefit from it (certain, but not all, plants), others are negatively 
impacted. The papers alluded to in his article precisely show that 
biodiversity is considerably less in the CO2 vent sites of Ischia 
(Italy) and Papua New Guinea. At the pH level expected at the end of 
this century, 30% of the species are eliminated in Ischia (Hall-Spencer 
et al., 2008). Likewise, in Papua New Guinea, the considerable diversity 
of Indo-Pacific corals takes a hit at the acidity level projected in 
2100, with a taxonomic richness of hard corals down by 39% (Fabricius et 
al., 2011).

Matt Ridley claims that "Laboratory experiments find that more marine 
creatures thrive than suffer when carbon dioxide lowers the pH level to 
7.8". This is also incorrect. Five experts in the field have recently 
concluded that there is a high level of confidence that "Ocean 
acidification will adversely affect calcification" (Gattuso et al., 2011)..

Informing its readership by providing accurate accounts should be a aim 
of the press. The best way to achieve that goal for the Wall Street 
Journal and the journalists who contribute to it is to seek the input of 
the scientific community.

Jean-Pierre Gattuso
Scientific Coordinator, European Project on Ocean Acidification

References cited:

Fabricius K. E., Langdon C., Uthicke S., Humphrey C., Noonan S., De’ath 
G., Okazaki R., Muehllehner N., Glas M. S. & Lough J. M., 2011. Losers 
and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide 
concentrations. Nature Climate change 1:165-169.

Gattuso J.-P., Bijma J., Gehlen M., Riebesell U. & Turley C., 2011. 
Ocean acidification: knowns, unknowns and perspectives. In: Gattuso 
J.-P. & Hansson L. (Eds.), Ocean acidification, pp. 291-311. Oxford: 
Oxford University Press.

Hall-Spencer J. M., Rodolfo-Metalpa R., Martin S., Ransome E., Fine M., 
Turner S. M., Rowley S. J., Tedesco D. & Buia M.-C., 2008. Volcanic 
carbon dioxide vents show ecosystem effects of ocean acidification. 
Nature 454:96-99.

-- Jean-Pierre Gattuso | http://www.obs-vlfr.fr/~gattuso
European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA): http://epoca-project.eu/
"Ocean Acidification", new book (http://tinyurl.com/5skzxb5)

Jean-Pierre Gattuso | http://www.obs-vlfr.fr/~gattuso
European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA): http://epoca-project.eu
"Ocean Acidification", new book (http://tinyurl.com/5skzxb5)

More information about the Coral-List mailing list