By Clive Tesar
Sitting in a large hotel room in Ottawa, two of the three people who completed a Catlin Arctic Survey trek to the North Pole wore badges of their gruelling trip – frostbite scars on their faces. What kept them going to their polar destination said Ann Daniels, one of the trekkers, was the thought of the scientific value of the data they were collecting along the route. The three were holding a brief news conference before returning to England.
As the three team members walked an estimated 500 miles across the arctic ice they collected samples of Arctic Ocean water from eighteen different sites. Data from those sites will be put together with data from a static collection point north of Ellef Ringnes Island in the Canadian Arctic. Scientists, including one supported by WWF, used the camp as a place to sample water chemistry, and to gather samples of the building blocks of life in the Arctic Ocean, the tiny plants and animals known collectively as plankton.
All of this effort was being expended to create a starting point for knowledge about the effects of ocean acidification in the Arctic. Ocean acidification has been described as the evil twin of climate change.
The build-up of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is changing water chemistry, making oceans more acid. Some important ocean life is unable to tolerate the more acid conditions that are predicted to arise as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.
Craig Stewart, Director of WWF Canada’s Arctic Programme, describes ocean acidification as “Probably the most insidious threat to the future of life in the Arctic.”
WWF continues its work with the Catlin Arctic Survey to ensure that the threat is better researched, and better known. Early results from this initial round of sampling are expected to be available this September.
The Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 focused on what is widely considered to be the ‘other’ carbon problem beyond climate change – that of ocean change, researching how greenhouse gases could affect the marine life of the Arctic ocean. Laura Edwards, a researcher from Bangor University in Wales, and Rod Macrae, Head of Communications at Geo Mission, blogged for WWF throughout the Survey from the Catlin Arctic Survey Ice Base in Nunavut, northern Canada.