A Regional Caribbean Observatory is now operating in Cuba with financial support from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to measure ocean acidity, an initiative with a positive environmental and economic impact.
Officially opened in late March, the new institution is located at the Rancho Luna International Diving Center in the southern central Cuban province of Cienfuegos.
During the inauguration, IAEA deputy director general Dazhu Yang said that the observatory forms part of the organization’s RLA-70-20 project, with initial studies conducted along the group of keys north of Villa Clara province and the Rancho Luna zone in Cienfuegos. The objective of the observatory is to create an observation network in the Caribbean to measure ocean acidification by using nuclear technology and to analyze its impact on the propagation of harmful algae, he explained.
Groups of corals are at the center of the studies because these organisms reflect seawater acidity levels.
The opening of the observatory in Cuba is significant since, as Yang emphasized, the island “places great importance on environmental protection.”
Cuba also has a number of expert scientists working on domestic projects in this field and the IAEA supports their endeavors with technical cooperation, he added.
According to expert Alain Muñoz from the Environmental Studies Center of Cienfuegos (CEAC) the new scientific center represents a step forward, “and the challenge is to create new knowledge products based on the information obtained through the technology,” he said.
The studies will help suggest measures that best suit local and national conditions, to either mitigate against harmful environmental effects or adapt to them.
Implemented in 2014, the Regional Project LA- 70-20 R aims to boost the Caribbean countries’ potential to assess acidification caused by CO2 emissions absorbed by the sea.
Global warming is perhaps the best known harmful effect of deforestation and fossil fuel consumption, however scientists warn that sea water is also continually affected by rising CO2 levels.
Scientific evidence collected over the past few years around the world indicates that ocean acidity could pose a threat to living organisms that is equal to or greater than global warming.
When absorbed by oceans, CO2 reduces pH levels and this chemical change in the water affects marine life and ecosystems in many different ways. Coral reefs are particularly at risk as are organisms with shells or skeletons largely made up of calcium carbonate.
According to international studies, surface ocean pH today is 0.1 unit lower than pre-industrial values and there is evidence of its impact in deep sea waters.