Inventory of EU Marine Climate Change Research

New search

EPOCA - European Project on Ocean Acidification

Project website:

Summary information

Funding:FP7 - Collaborative Research Project - Large-scale Integrating Project
Total cost:9750000
Ec contribution:6550000
Start date:2008-05-01
End date:2012-04-30
Duration:48 months
Coordinator:Jean-Pierre Gattuso (
Organisation:National Council for Scientific Research – France
Themes:Ocean acidification; biological impacts; socio-economic consequences
Project name:EPOCA - European Project on Ocean Acidification
Project summary:Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, about one third of the CO2 released in the atmosphere by anthropogenic activities has been absorbed by the world’s oceans, which play a key role in moderating climate change. As CO2 reacts with seawater, it generates dramatic changes in carbonate chemistry, including decreases in pH and in the concentration of carbonate ions. The impacts of this phenomenon, known as “ocean acidification”, on marine ecosystems are only poorly known. One of the most likely consequences is the slower growth of organisms forming calcareous skeletons or shells, such as corals and mollusks. More information on the effects of ocean acidification is a major environmental priority because of the threat it poses to certain processes, organisms and ecosystems.

The overall goal of EPOCA is to fill numerous gaps in the understanding of the consequences of ocean acidification.

EPOCA aims to document the changes in ocean chemistry and geographical distribution of marine organisms across space and time. Paleo-reconstruction methods will be used on several archives, including foraminifera and deep-sea corals, to determine the past variability in ocean chemistry (carbonate, nutrients and trace metals) and to tie these to present-day chemical and biological observations.

EPOCA devotes much effort to quantifying the impact of ocean acidification on marine organisms and ecosystems. Key climate-relevant biogeochemical processes such as calcification, primary production and nitrogen fixation are investigated using a large array of techniques, ranging from molecular tools to physiological and ecological approaches. Perturbation experiments are carried out both in the laboratory and in the field. Key organisms have been selected on the basis of their ecological, biogeochemical or socio-economic importance.

The modelling component of EPOCA integrates the chemical, biological and biogeochemical impacts of ocean acidification into biogeochemical, sediment and coupled ocean-climate models. Special attention will be paid to feedbacks of physiological changes on the carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and iron cycles and in turn how these changes will affect and be affected by future climate change.
EPOCA assesses uncertainties, risks and thresholds (“tipping points”) related to ocean acidification at molecular, cellular, organismal, local and global scales. It also assesses pathways of CO2 emissions required to avoid the identified thresholds and describes the state change if these emissions are exceeded and the subsequent risk to the marine environment and Earth system.
Project outputs:Expected results

-Improve the understanding of the past and present spatio-temporal changes of ocean acidification due to increasing CO 2 uptake.
-Determine the impacts of ocean acidification on marine biota, their physiology, ecosystems, the potential for acclimation and adaptation, impacts on elemental cycling and production of climate-relevant gases.
-Improve understanding of future changes in ocean chemistry and biogeochemical feedbacks in terms of hotspots, uncertainties, and thresholds. Improve the description of the carbon cycle in coupled ocean-climate models. The key element cycles investigated are carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and iron.
-Synthesize information on tipping points. This ambitious mission relies on combining the strong EPOCA consortium of 27 partners and more than 160 leading European scientists, and their field and laboratory resources. EPOCA coordinates with major national and international projects and programmes.