Coral reefs provide countless services to small coastal communities. Even so, they face numerous threats resulting from excessive carbon emissions in the atmosphere. Over the past two centuries, climate change has caused a drastic change in the chemistry of our ocean. The process of ocean acidification (OA) makes it more difficult for marine organisms to build their skeletons and shells, such as corals and clams. The potential negative impacts from OA could impact Palau’s food security, economic status, and coastal protection. Therefore, a science-based understanding of the ecological effects of OA is key to effective decision-making.
As of June 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has agreed to support Palau International Coral Reef Center (PICRC) to enhance Palau’s national capacities and infrastructure to monitor and assess the impacts of OA. The main objective of this project is to accurately measure and observe OA trends and impacts in marine ecosystems of Palau, thereby maximizing the ability of coral reefs to continue providing important services to the people of Palau. The information gathered from this project will be used to guide management and policy decisions.
This project is anticipated to run for four years, and it will be a collaborative effort between PICRC, the IAEA, the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, and the Ministry of State. The project will also strengthen existing ties between PICRC and universities such as Stanford University and the Korean Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST), by increasing PICRC’s capacity in OA research.
PICRC and Ministry of State are also working with IAEA to build both the human and technical capacity of PICRC to be the regional center for OA research in the Pacific. This would allow other countries in the Pacific to come to the Center to learn about OA research or send their samples to the Center to be tested. This is a long-term capacity building program that will be able to support Palauan student to get their Masters and PhD in OA research and return to Palau to work at the Center.