Climatic Change

, Volume 117, Issue 4, pp 725–738 | Cite as

Ocean acidification and its impacts: an expert survey

  • Jean-Pierre Gattuso
  • Katharine J. Mach
  • Granger Morgan


The oceans moderate the rate and severity of climate change by absorbing massive amounts of anthropogenic CO2 but this results in large-scale changes in seawater chemistry, which are collectively referred to as anthropogenic ocean acidification. Despite its potentially widespread consequences, the problem of ocean acidification has been largely absent from most policy discussions of CO2 emissions, both because the science is relatively new and because the research community has yet to deliver a clear message to decision makers regarding its impacts. Here we report the results of the first expert survey in the field of ocean acidification. Fifty-three experts, who had previously participated in an IPCC workshop, were asked to assess 22 declarative statements about ocean acidification and its consequences. We find a relatively strong consensus on most issues related to past, present and future chemical aspects of ocean acidification: non-anthropogenic ocean acidification events have occurred in the geological past, anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the main (but not the only) mechanism generating the current ocean acidification event, and anthropogenic ocean acidification that has occurred due to historical fossil fuel emissions will be felt for centuries. Experts generally agreed that there will be impacts on biological and ecological processes and biogeochemical feedbacks but levels of agreement were lower, with more variability across responses. Levels of agreement were higher for statements regarding calcification, primary production and nitrogen fixation than for those about impacts on foodwebs. The levels of agreement for statements pertaining to socio-economic impacts, such as impacts on food security, and to more normative policy issues, were relatively low.


Coral Reef Expert Knowledge Ocean Acidification Boron Isotope Geological Past 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank the respondents for their participation in the study (for full list see the supplementary information). Discussions with Michael Mastrandrea were instrumental in designing the survey. The assistance of Mandy B. Holbrook, Avani Kaushik and Tatiana Donnay is gratefully acknowledged. This work is a contribution to the “European Project on Ocean Acidification” and to the MedSeA project. Work at Carnegie Mellon was supported by the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making (through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University (SES-0949710)).

Supplementary material

10584_2012_591_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1050 kb)


  1. Andersson AJ, Mackenzie FT, Gattuso J-P (2011) Effects of ocean acidification on benthic processes, organisms, and ecosystems. In: Gattuso J-P, Hansson L (eds) Ocean acidification. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 122–153Google Scholar
  2. Denman KL, Brasseur G, Chidthaisong A et al (2007) Couplings between changes in the climate system and biogeochemistry. In: Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M et al (eds) Climate change 2007: the physical science basis. Contribution of working group I to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. Doney SC, Mahowald N, Lima I et al (2007) Impact of anthropogenic atmospheric nitrogen and sulfur deposition on ocean acidification and the inorganic carbon system. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 104:14580–14585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Doney SC, Fabry VJ, Feely RA, Kleypas JA (2009) Ocean acidification: the other CO2 problem. Ann Rev Mar Sci 1:169–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gattuso J-P, Hansson L (eds) (2011) Ocean acidification. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  6. Gattuso J-P, Riebesell U (2011) Reconciling apparently contradictory observations. In: Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF et al (eds) Workshop report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change workshop on impacts of ocean acidification on marine biology and ecosystems. IPCC Working Group II Technical Support Unit, Carnegie Institution, Stanford, California, pp 10–16Google Scholar
  7. Gattuso J-P, Allemand D, Frankignoulle M (1999) Photosynthesis and calcification at cellular, organismal and community levels in coral reefs: a review on interactions and control by carbonate chemistry. Am Zool 39:160–183Google Scholar
  8. 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. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 291–311Google Scholar
  9. Harrould-Kolieb ER, Herr D (2011) Ocean acidification and climate change: synergies and challenges of addressing both under the UNFCCC. Clim Pol 1–12Google Scholar
  10. Hendriks IE, Duarte CM, Alvarez M (2010) Vulnerability of marine biodiversity to ocean acidification: a meta-analysis. Estu Coastal Shelf Sci 86:157–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kroeker K, Kordas RL, Crim RN, Singh GG (2010) Meta-analysis reveals negative yet variable effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms. Ecol Lett 13:1419–1434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Le Quéré C, Raupach MR, Canadell JG et al (2009) Trends in the sources and sinks of carbon dioxide. Nat Geosci 2:831–836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lee PM (2004) Bayesian statistics: an introduction, 3rd edn. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Liu J, Weinbauer MG, Maier C, Dai M, Gattuso J-P (2010) Effect of ocean acidification on microbial diversity, and on microbe-driven biogeochemistry and ecosystem functioning. Aquat Microb Ecol 61:291–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mastrandrea MD, Field CB, Stocker TF et al (2010) Guidance note for lead authors of the IPCC fifth assessment report on consistent treatment of uncertainties. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)Google Scholar
  16. Riebesell U, Tortell PD (2011) Effects of ocean acidification on pelagic organisms and ecosystems. In: Gattuso J-P, Hansson L (eds) Ocean acidification. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 99–121Google Scholar
  17. Rockström J, Steffen W, Noone K, Persson Ă, Chapin FS, Lambin E, Lenton TM, Scheffer M, Folke C, Schellnhuber HJ, Nykvist B, de Wit CA, Hughes T, van der Leeuw S, Rodhe H, Sörlin S, Snyder PK, Costanza R, Svedin U, Falkenmark M, Karlberg L, Corell RW, Fabry VJ, Hansen J, Walker B, Liverman D, Richardson K, Crutzen P, Foley J (2009) Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecol Soc 14: ART 32.Google Scholar
  18. Sabine CL, Feely RA, Gruber N et al (2004) The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2. Science 305:367–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Schubert R, Schellnhuber H-J, Buchmann N, Epiney A, Grießhammer R, Kulessa M, Messner D, Rahmstorf S, Schmid J (2006) The future of oceans- Warming up, rising high, turning sour. 110. German Advisory Council on Global Change, BerlinGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Pierre Gattuso
    • 1
  • Katharine J. Mach
    • 2
  • Granger Morgan
    • 3
  1. 1.CNRS-INSU and Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, Laboratoire d’Océanographie de VillefrancheVillefranche-sur-Mer CedexFrance
  2. 2.Department of Global EcologyCarnegie Institution for ScienceStanfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Engineering and Public PolicyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

Personalised recommendations