05/08/2013 07:25 EDT | Updated 07/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Ocean acidification affecting Arctic at fast pace

Scientists are raising the alarm as the Arctic Ocean is becoming more acidic, and at a more rapid pace than other oceans.

Rashid Sumaila, with the University of British Columbia, is one of 60 scientists at the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme who took part in an international study on Arctic Ocean acidification. The group released its results at a conference in Norway this week.

The acidification has a wide range of effects, from calcifying species being unable to form hard shells, which then affects other animals up the food chain, right to people who rely on the ocean for food sources.

“Aboriginal people actually depend a lot on the living sources in the Arctic. They are very connected to the system and they will be the first ones to be hit by this,” said Sumaila.

Sumaila said there is more acidification of Arctic waters because cold water absorbs carbon dioxide better than warmer water. In the past few decades, he said the world’s oceans have become 30 per cent more acidic.

He said the situation is dire, especially when combined with other issues affecting the Arctic, such as ice melting, over-fishing in some regions, and habitat problems.

“It’s a big issue and we need to take action. But if you just look at ocean acidification, we are building up to when it will be a really big problem. We still have the time and the chance to do something,” he said.

The scientists recommend cutting down greenhouse gas emissions. Sumaila added that the member nations of the Arctic Council are responsible for 25 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

They also recommend minimizing other stresses on the region, which exacerbate the problem.

They will present their recommendations to the Arctic Council when it meets in Sweden next week.