A high-level panel comprising of Marine and Environmental Scientists from across Africa under the banner, Ocean Acidification Africa network has called for robust regional cooperation in tackling ocean acidification.
Ocean Acidification Africa is a pan-African network specifically convened to coordinate and promote ocean acidification (OA) awareness and research in Africa.
Ocean acidification, often referred to as “the other CO2 problem”, is a major threat to marine ecosystems worldwide, and is the focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.3.
Since 2015, African scientists are actively collaborating to advance ocean acidification research throughout the continent as part of the Ocean Acidification Africa network.
At the first high-level meeting on Tuesday, January 19 in Monrovia, Sheck Sherif, Co-Chair of the OA- African network and PhD Researcher at Queen’s University Belfast and Marine Fellow at Conservation International, in his introductory remarks noted that little is known about ocean acidification in Africa and as such, there was a need to build the capacity of African Scientists.
“Africa has a very huge gap and to ensure that these gaps are closed, we need to build the capacity of Africa Scientists,” Sherif urged.
Outlining the danger of ocean acidification, he noted that half of emitted carbon dioxide (CO2) remains in the atmosphere and causing global warming; while half of the harmful gas is absorbed by ocean and land- with the ocean absorbing 24 million tons of CO2 every day.
The oceans, he said provide livelihood for billions of people worldwide while some of the plants and animal species including fish and coral reefs are valuable. According to him, fish is a primary source of animal protein for one billion people, mostly in developing countries and Coral reefs provide home for millions of species and serves as storm protection for coastlines and generate income from tourism.
He however said climate change and ocean acidification will increase challenges from existing stressors including overexploitation of resources, habitat degradation, loss of biodiversity, pollution and coastal erosion.
OA-Africa network Goals and Challenges
Speaking further in his presentation, Sherif stated that the network’s goal among other things are to help coordinate and set regional priorities for monitoring and research designed to further the understanding of coastal acidification, identify gaps in understanding the scientific, and socio‐economics of ocean and coastal acidification impacts in Africa.
In addition, the goal is to communicate and facilitate exchange of knowledge to relevant stakeholders and funding agencies, respond to stakeholder needs, increase scientific capacity to monitor and predict OA impacts and ensure quality data generation throughout the African continent.
He said some of the challenges include lack of adequate knowledge of OA across the African region, data for individual countries are either not available or shared amongst relevant stakeholders and partners and there are no national/regional research institutions with agreements to either train early career scientists and professionals or share data and information for management and mitigation purposes.
The meeting which was held on the sideline of the Blue Oceans Conference featured experts including Dr. Peter Swarzenski, Senior Researcher of the international Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Environment Laboratories in Monaco.
Dr. Swarzenski revealed that because OA is a rapidly growing field, there is increasing need for international coordinator and collaboration.
He said the IAEA, through the International Coordination and Capacity Building on Ocean Acidification, (OA-ICC) and several inter-governmental agencies including the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) is rendering support in terms of capacity and funding to boost the awareness of ocean acidification across the world.
He furthered that globally, that have been 504 capacity building opportunities including training courses, international conferences, networking meetings and peer to peer mentorship; while 247 capacity building opportunities have been provided to 26 countries in Africa.
Meanwhile, in a bid to increasing awareness about ocean acidification and research efforts in Africa and foster a dialogue with scientists attending the Blue Oceans Conference, White Papers for three major regions of Africa were presented by Samir Bachouche (North), Eric Okuku (East) and Adekunbi Falilu (West).
The white papers laid out the needs and vision for future ocean acidification research in Africa and will help guide OA projects in Africa to effectively report on SDG 14.3.