Environmental Management

, Volume 52, Issue 4, pp 761–779 | Cite as

Taking Action Against Ocean Acidification: A Review of Management and Policy Options

  • Raphaël Billé
  • Ryan Kelly
  • Arne Biastoch
  • Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb
  • Dorothée Herr
  • Fortunat Joos
  • Kristy Kroeker
  • Dan Laffoley
  • Andreas Oschlies
  • Jean-Pierre Gattuso


Ocean acidification has emerged over the last two decades as one of the largest threats to marine organisms and ecosystems. However, most research efforts on ocean acidification have so far neglected management and related policy issues to focus instead on understanding its ecological and biogeochemical implications. This shortfall is addressed here with a systematic, international and critical review of management and policy options. In particular, we investigate the assumption that fighting acidification is mainly, but not only, about reducing CO2 emissions, and explore the leeway that this emerging problem may open in old environmental issues. We review nine types of management responses, initially grouped under four categories: preventing ocean acidification; strengthening ecosystem resilience; adapting human activities; and repairing damages. Connecting and comparing options leads to classifying them, in a qualitative way, according to their potential and feasibility. While reducing CO2 emissions is confirmed as the key action that must be taken against acidification, some of the other options appear to have the potential to buy time, e.g. by relieving the pressure of other stressors, and help marine life face unavoidable acidification. Although the existing legal basis to take action shows few gaps, policy challenges are significant: tackling them will mean succeeding in various areas of environmental management where we failed to a large extent so far.


Ocean acidification Marine ecosystems Management Policy Resilience Adaptation 



This study was made possible by support from various funding sources, including the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) through the ‘European Project on Ocean Acidification’ (EPOCA), the ‘Mediterranean Sea acidification in a changing climate’ project (MedSeA) and the ‘Changes in carbon uptake and emissions by oceans in a changing climate’ project (CARBOCHANGE). FJ acknowledges support by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The authors wish to thank three anonymous reviewers for very detailed and helpful comments.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raphaël Billé
    • 1
  • Ryan Kelly
    • 2
    • 3
  • Arne Biastoch
    • 4
  • Ellycia Harrould-Kolieb
    • 5
  • Dorothée Herr
    • 6
  • Fortunat Joos
    • 7
  • Kristy Kroeker
    • 8
  • Dan Laffoley
    • 6
  • Andreas Oschlies
    • 4
  • Jean-Pierre Gattuso
    • 9
    • 10
  1. 1.Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), Sciences PoParis Cedex 7France
  2. 2.Center for Ocean SolutionsStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  3. 3.School of Marine and Environmental AffairsUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  4. 4.GEOMAR, Helmholtz Centre for Ocean ResearchKielGermany
  5. 5.Melbourne School of Land and EnvironmentUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  6. 6.International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)GlandSwitzerland
  7. 7.Physics InstituteUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  8. 8.Bodega Marine LabUC DavisBodega BayUSA
  9. 9.Laboratoire d’Océanographie de VillefrancheCNRS-INSUVillefranche-sur-Mer CedexFrance
  10. 10.Observatoire Océanologique de VillefrancheUniversité Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6Villefranche-sur-MerFrance

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