Issue: Condition of the ocean and coastal waters - Climatic and carbon dioxide factors

This is an issue under the Coasts and oceans theme of the Data Reporting System.

Why we need to know about this issue

The condition of the oceans may be affected by global climate change and may also contribute to global climate change especially if currents change. Marine vegetation plays a significant role in the ocean’s capacity to regulate the global climate by absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen.

Climatic factors can also contribute to other impacts on the ocean which in turn impact on other themes, for example, sea level changes have direct impacts on both the land and inland waters, and changes in sea temperatures could potentially have both direct effects on marine life and result in changes of currents.

Increasing absorption of carbon from the atmosphere can also increase the acidity of marine waters with direct impacts on marine life.

Indicators

  • CO-03 Sea level 
    Sea level is an aspect of the condition of the ocean itself, as distinct from its biodiversity, although its potential impacts on both marine and coastal biodiversity are substantial. Rates and extent of sea level change are potentially affected by climate change.
  • CO-04 Sea surface temperature variability 
    Changes in sea surface temperature patterns may be indicative of changes in ocean climate, affecting marine organisms over potentially vast areas. Ultimately, changes in ocean climate could lead to changes in ocean currents, affecting all marine ecosystems and potentially also affecting terrestrial ecosystems.
  • CO-44 Marine chlorophyll concentration 
    Changes in marine chlorophyll would be indicative of changes in the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
  • CO-60 Sea salinity 
    Melting freshwater glacial ice as a result of global warming could potentially cause major and long term changes to ocean salinity, and potentially have very significant implications for marine ecosystems.
  • CO-72 Changes in sea acidity/alkalinity 
    Changes in the acidity of the oceans may affect the ocean’s capacity to absorb carbon dioxide.
  • A-01 Annual variation in the Southern Oscillation Index 
    A number of studies indicate that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) explains 30 - 40% of the year-to-year variability of Australia’s climate, particularly rainfall. The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) is a well-established measure of this phenomenon. El Niño events are associated with below-normal rainfall and often drought over much of northern and eastern Australia. They generally occur every two to seven years and are generally followed by La Niña events, which are associated with higher rainfall. Changes in the timing of these events may be indicative of longer term changes in climate which may have significant impacts on coasts and oceans, especially coastal and marine biodiversity.
  • A-41 Greenhouse - climate change projections 
    Climate change projections can assist in the analysis of climate driven changes to the condition of the oceans and marine biodiversity.
  • AAT-12 Changes in colonies of plants on Heard Island
     
    Understanding the coverage and type of vegetation on the non ice area of Heard Island provides insight into the extent of glacial retreat as a result of climate change which may have implications for changes in the climatic conditions of Australian waters and the oceans more generally.
  • AAT-14 Ice sheet mass balance and sea ice extent 
    The changes in ice sheets, sea ice and fast ice may be indicators of climate change. In addition, the Antarctic ice sheet and sea ice plays a major role in global climate through its influence on heat exchange between ocean and atmosphere, it assists the formation of Antarctic bottom water which sinks to the depths of the ocean subsequently driving global ocean circulation. This indicator therefore had implications for the climatic conditions of Australian waters and the oceans more generally.
  • AAT-15 Glacier movement 
    Understanding the coverage and type of vegetation on the non ice area of Heard Island provides insight into the extent of glacial retreat as a result of climate change which may have implications for the climatic conditions of Australian waters and the oceans more generally.

Related issues