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Our Ocean Heroes for National Marine Week 2020 
Aquatic Ecophysiology Research Platform (AERP)

In celebration of National Marine Week, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ran an Ocean Health blog, with QA-style guest content to put a spotlight on the main threats our oceans are facing – and on the organisations that are doing something about it. NRF-SAIAB scientists contributed to this blog, sharing information about their marine research projects on climate change and how they are addressing this issue.

This is what the SAIAB & RU's Aquatic Ecophysiology Research Platform (AERP) Ocean Heroes are doing to mitigate Climate Change effects:

SAIAB & RU Aquatic Ecophysiology Research Platform (AERP)

  1. 1. Provide us with a context of our marine resources in South Africa.

Climate change is the change in overall temperature and weather conditions which is caused by rising temperatures. This is driven by increased levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. In the past century, the average global temperature has increased by approximately 0.74°C and it is predicted that we could see a further increase of 2-4°C by the 21st century. Although this may seem like an inadequate change, the current rise has already caused major shifts in our climate which affects our environment and the people and animals living within it.

  1. 2. Explain to us the impacts of climate change on our oceans and marine life.

Oceans act as a giant buffer as they absorb over 90% of heat and about a third of carbon dioxide that is accumulated in our atmosphere. The ocean therefore acts as a stabilising force against climate change; however, the ocean cannot do this job fast enough with all the excess carbon and heat being released. The effects of this include shifts in the temperature of our oceans, change in ocean currents, acidification and deoxygenation. These effects, in turn, can lead to altering of marine ecosystems, which have consequences on the survival, recovery and distribution of different species and overall maintenance of a healthy ocean.

  1. 3. Provide an overview of the projects led by SAIAB to address, study or mitigate the impacts of climate change on the marine ecosystem.

The Aquatic Ecophysiology Research Platform (AERP) is a collaborative facility between SAIAB and Rhodes University which provides researchers with the tools to determine the effect of climate change on the relationship between living organisms and their surrounding environment, how these effects are likely to unfold and what actions might prevent their effect in the future. The platform hosts studentss who investigate these effects:

Dr Murray Duncan, Dr Kerry-ann van der Walt, Cuen Muller and Lauren Bailey -  These post-graduate students investigated the potential effects of climate change on the temperature tolerance, physiological functioning and behavior of different fish and invertebrate species, some focusing on the earlier life stages or adult stages or both.  

Carla Edworthy and Pule Mpopetsi – These post-graduate students studied the effect of ocean acidification on different fish species, focusing on the early life stages.

  1. 4. List some simple ways in which consumers/ South Africans can help minimise or mitigate the impacts of climate change on the coastal and marine environment.

Reduce your carbon footprint – Although this may seem like a daunting task, there are some easy ways you can achieve this right from the comfort of your own home! If possible, why not leave your vehicle at home? Walk, cycle or carpool to work. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (the 3 R’s). Reduce the amount of waste produced at home. Reuse certain items, this will also save you money! Recycle items, this can be made into a fun and educational activity for your family. Switch of your lights and appliances when not in use, this is also yet another money saver!

Educating your family, friends and community – Educate others on what climate change is doing to our planet and what they can do to mitigate these changes. For example: If you are reading this information, share it with at least one other person, if this person does the same, we create a chain effect and spread our message.

  1. 5. What does ocean sustainability/ ocean health mean to you?

The oceans hold an extraordinary and unique range of biodiversity and ecosystems, along with this, the ocean and its resources are also essential to human welfare and sustenance due to the services they provide. Ocean sustainability is maintaining our ocean and these resources/services they provide in the present so that it can still meet the needs of future generations. 

  1. 6. In your opinion, and within the context of climate change, what role can/is sustainable fishing (and seafood) playing in mitigating the impacts on our oceans?

Our ocean is constantly under existing and new threats to its health and marine life, the combined effects of these threats makes it very difficult for oceans to recover from any damage caused. By removing at least one of these threats from the equation, the oceans and its ecosystems become more tolerant and can fight off other threats, enabling the oceans to adapt more easily to change. By practicing sustainable fishing, we do exactly this and remove the threat of overfishing, allowing the ocean to recover quicker from other threats, such as climate change. 

  1. 7. As an Ocean Hero this Marine Month, please provide us with a quote or educational tip in celebration of our oceans and ocean heritage.

We have one shared ocean, if we control what we do next, how we go about living our lives and how we use our voice, we can have one shared action and help save our oceans. It is not too late, but it is up to all of us to ensure that we can combat any further damage to our earth and oceans! 

The following imagery show climate change impacting the marine environment and the work that our research teams are doing to address the impacts.

Image 1                                                                                               Image 2

Image 1: Investigating the effects of temperature change on adult black tail by examining their heart rates.
Image 2: Investigating the effects of climate change on the physiological functioning of adult red roman.


Image 3                                                                                        Image 4

Image 3: Investigating the effects of temperature change on juvenile crabs by examining their end points.
Image 4: Investigating the effects of ocean acidification by examining the metabolic physiology of early life stage dusky kob.


*Special thanks to Seshnee Reddy, AERP Laboratory Coordinator for contributing to this series and showcasing the lab's work.