Seawater monitoring station set up in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: A reef monitoring station to monitor the health and biodiversity of coral reefs amid global warming has been set up by the Sabah-based Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC).

Based in Pulau Gaya, the Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure (ARMS) is the first ocean acidification monitoring station to be set up in South-East Asia.

It is equipped with a sensor that continuously monitors seawater temperature and acidity, MERC project director Alwin Wong said.

ARMS and Calcification Accretion Units was fully installed and commissioned on Feb 28 and was recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records on Monday.

It was led by Universiti Sains Malaysia Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies director Prof Datuk Dr Aileen Tan.

“This is the first step in a research collaboration between MERC and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of Unesco,” Wong said.

He added that ocean acidification due to increased levels of carbon dioxide that dissolves into seawater is expected to reduce the pH levels in seawater.

“The reduction of pH or the increased acidity along with lowering of carbonate saturation are expected to create negative effects on coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, and other marine habitats.

“Monitoring of seawater carbonate chemistry (pH and total alkalinity) and water parameters (temperature and salinity) will also be conducted to better understand the current situation,” he said.

Wong said the joint venture with IOC Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific would monitor the ecological impacts of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems and expand the research and monitoring effort across the Indo-Pacific region and globally as part of the International Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network.

“This data will also be used to develop strategies for conserving and protecting these important ecosystems,” he added.

Wong said that MERC’s involvement in ocean acidification monitoring comes after earlier achievements in producing and restocking endangered species and introducing more suitable marine food fish species for culture.

“MERC’s first record with the Malaysia Book of Records was in 2010 for successfully producing all seven species of the endangered giant clams found in Malaysian waters. These giant clams were produced to be returned to the sea to increase the population and to allow these slow growing, sessile animals to reproduce on their own.”

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