GOES Global Oceanic Environmental Survey
PROJECT BRIEF: The question ?
Is aquatic environmental pollution from priority substances impacting on marine species diversity and primary productivity and is it implicated in ocean acidification and climate change.
The GOES Project aims to bring about change;
1. The elimiantion of priority substances in domestic / consumer products
2. The promotion of technologis to recycle, recover, reuse and remanufacture as part of the circular economy
3. If we can not prevent the manufacture or reuse of priority substances then we must remove the substances from drinking water, waste water and the environment.
The GOES Project, with an international technical team overseeing and directing, will:
Many indicators tell us our oceans are changing for the worse. Some of these changes are visible and are getting our attention – over fishing, marine litter, and reduction/loss of of marine biodiversity. We have already lost over 90% of all large fish, tuna and sharks as well as coral reefs around th world. However, it is the presence and impact of pollution from Priority Substances (those chemicals most toxic to humans, aquatic life and other organisms) on which we have little or no data because it’s been too difficult to collect the data, but they may very well have a more negative impact than we realize. We know that the oceans are changing fast and the use of toxic chemicals in our homes, businesses and industry, along with our use of fossil fuels, have been highlighted as possible reasons for this change in biodiversity. We also know that if we lose the marine ecosystem, the loss of the terrestrial system will follow. Data from academic institutions and the aquaria industry from across the globe, when pieced together, form a very worrying picture:
- The burning of fossil fuels only accounts for only 3% of the CO2 entering the atmosphere (IPCC 2013 26)
- 50% to 80% of atmospheric CO2 is adsorbed by the oceans
- Since 1950, the oceanic productivity (plankton/marine algae and bacteria) may have reduced by up to 40% (Boyce et al., 2010 3). This means CO2 adsorption by the oceans has also dropped by up to 40%,(hugely significant even at 5%)
- The reduction in productivity may be due to priority chemicals as opposed to an increase in temperature, PCB concentrations in Antarctica are over 1 ng/l (Joiris, C.R et al 11). However even if they were below detection level, the chemicals will be selectively absorbed by microbes and marine plastics to toxic levels. There is no safe concentration of a prtiority substance.
- It follows that this reduction in productivity will result in higher concentration of CO2 because it is not being fixed, and in turn, ocean acidification will then accelerate.
- Aquaria are mini oceanic ecosystems and they fail due to pH decline –this maps across to the IPCC extrapolation as follows: Oceanic pH decline, will reach pH7.95 in just 25 years, at which point there may be a cascade destabilization of the ecosystem. (IPCC 201326)
- 90% of large fish have already been lost through over fishing, the reminder may not survive acidification.
- Silica structured diatoms will take over from carbonate based algae e.g coccolithophores, ( BIOS) which are currently responsible for 25% of all CO2 fixation. Once this process initiates it cannot be reversed. However we still have a few years to reverse the trend, but we need start now.
The above bullet points are a few pieces of the jigsaw that, when brought together, highlight why we need to be doing more to measure priority substances. We just do not have enough data on their impact on the marine ecosystem to convince the world’s governments, industry and society to make the necessary urgent change.
We do not currently know the full impact priority chemicals have on the marine environment. In addition, there are data that makes us ask the questions about the possible strong link between marine biodiversity and climate change – with more evidence, this may be a mechanism of climate change about which we can also take corrective action.
The burning of fossil fuels will continue to rise, and the impact on climate change is inevitable, however the oceans are our buffer and ally. If we reduce or prevent priority chemical pollution there may be scope for the oceans to recover, for primary productivity to increase to a point where it could safely absorb more carbon dioxide again and make a significant contribution to our mitigation efforts to combat climate change.
We do know that we can’t control what we don’t measure. GOES aims to address the lack of data and help get a handle on this issue.
GOES is also win-win project… We get data to inform AND we work to stop priority chemicals getting in to our oceans and into our food chain. By demonstrating the level of priority chemicals in the ocean, this helps to signpost to freshwater aquatic environmental pollution, drinking water as well as food security.
There is no excuse for non action….. getting those priority chemicals out of the ecosystem might just lift the ‘foot off the brake’ on primary productivity and give the marine ecosystem a chance to recover and, we may even find this will help reverse some of the effects of climate change. No matter what, if the GOES Project can reduce toxicity and increase the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 –it can only be good.
The GOES objectives are:
Priority substances are a concern for the environment nationally and internationally with over 100 or so listed in Annex X of the European Union’s Water Framework Directive. It is expected that this list will grow to close to 500 by 2020. There is a pressing need to identify new treatments that will remove priority substances economically and preferably with low energy consumption and chemical consumption. The sampling regime is currently being developed with experts involved in environmental regulation, water chemistry and environmental and marine engineering.
Marine biology institutes and leading aquaria are also being consulted to ensure that GOES results in collecting robust data sets which can be used and mashed with out models to help inform the science and develop our understanding to inform the management of our oceans.
To contribute to and raise the debate on the global action required to address the declining health of our oceans and the role that priority substances may be playing not only to this decline, but their potential impact on climate change.
The GOES Leadership & Communication Team
Dr Howard Dryden, a Scottish marine biologist, who has dedicated his life to minimizing the use of chemicals to treat water across the world. GOES is the start of a new journey in helping to raise the consciousness of the wider public about priority substances.
To direct and steer an International Advisory Council, and a Scientific Board. Establishing a GOES Foundation for ongoing fundraising and awareness raising purposes is currently being explored to ensure that GOES has a sustained impact. The GOES Foundation will be based in Edinburgh, Scotland.