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Ocean acidification: A challenge to Operation Phakisa delivery plans

Publication Date: 
Thursday, February 18, 2016

Operation Phakisa, a South African Government initiative, was designed to fast track the implementation of solutions on critical development issues. The first implementation phase of this initiative, which is led by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), focuses on unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans.

Contact Person

Tendani Tsedu

+27 (0) 12 841 3417

mtsedu@csir.co.za

Operation Phakisa, a South African Government initiative, was designed to fast track the implementation of solutions on critical development issues. The first implementation phase of this initiative, which is led by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), focuses on unlocking the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans.

However ambitious Operation Phakisa may be considered to be, our oceans are saddled with problems that require urgent attention and immediate mitigation strategies for Operation Phakisa to be a success. One of the major problems is that of ocean acidification, a growing environmental concern linked to climate change.

Ocean acidification refers to the change in seawater chemistry caused by the absorption of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide by the ocean. Moreover, ocean acidification is a threat to national growth and development, particularly in the developing nations, and should be reflected in national and subnational developmental plans.

“Ocean acidification is a global process with local impacts on fisheries and coastal communities, therefore there is a need to act urgently at all levels,” says Dr Louis Celliers, CSIR Coastal Systems Research Group Leader. Louis contributed to a chapter titled Governance, governments and legislation in the Ocean acidification impacts on coastal communities report, which was launched at the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco in January 2015.

Fifty-three experts from the natural and social sciences contributed to the report, which is aimed at addressing and finding solutions to the potential effects of ocean acidification on different coastal communities.

CSIR’s contribution to the report involved a governance, governments and legislation perspective on ocean acidification. “The international community dealing with climate change must play a decisive role in encouraging national and local governments to scale up efforts to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions thereby reducing the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification,” Louis explains.

According to Louis, future impacts from ocean acidification and global warming have been studied across the world and these projected impacts will include food-web disruption, loss of biodiversity and major losses in aquaculture production. These negative impacts on the goods and services provided by marine ecosystems will affect society by threatening food security, coastal defences, tourism, as well as recreational activities.

Operation Phakisa is a result-driven approach to development, involving setting clear plans and targets, on-going monitoring of progress and making these results accessible to the public. In this regard, and according to the report, building capacity and research in ocean acidification across the world and within nations is an important action point. Moreover, according to the report, it is important to also create an ocean acidification mitigation plan to monitor, observe and stimulate the assessment and forecasting of vulnerability at various scales in order to identify seriously affected areas or hotspots that will require priority investigations.

Knowledge, expertise and capacity regarding ocean acidification is not globally distributed, therefore, it is important to promote and build scientific capacity, research and technology transfer that requires an international collaboration in dealing with climate change.

The report also highlighted recommendations in dealing with climate change to support and direct its strategy in addressing ocean acidification. Some of the recommendations include:

The ocean scientific community, together with civil society and governments, should be involved in the assessment of adaptation and mitigation proposals to enable an evidence-based assessment of how climate change-related solutions may impact positively or negatively on the ocean and ocean acidification; and

Maintaining and developing ocean acidification observations, warnings and forecasts by countries, and for the benefit of the global community.

The CSIR has been tasked by the DEA to assist with, among other tasks, a project that includes the utilisation of earth observation technology to help unlock the economic potential of South Africa’s oceans. Hence, the CSIR’s contribution to this report is a step in the right direction, paving the way to deliver on the ambitious Operation Phakisa targets. To view the report, click here.