Oceanografia e Química: unindo conhecimentos em prol dos oceanos e da sociedade


Quím. Nova




The marine environment is certainly one of the most complex systems to study, not only because of the challenges posed by the nature of the waters, but especially due to the interactions of physical, chemical and biological processes that control the cycles of the elements. Together with analytical chemists, oceanographers have been making a great effort in the advancement of knowledge of the distribution patterns of trace elements and processes that determine their biogeochemical cycles and influences on the climate of the planet. The international academic community is now in prime position to perform the first study on a global scale for observation of trace elements and their isotopes in the marine environment (GEOTRACES) and to evaluate the effects of major global changes associated with the influences of megacities distributed around the globe. This action can only be performed due to the development of highly sensitive detection methods and the use of clean sampling and handling techniques, together with a joint international program working toward the clear objective of expanding the frontiers of the biogeochemistry of the oceans and related topics, including climate change issues and ocean acidification associated with alterations in the carbon cycle. It is expected that the oceanographic data produced this coming decade will allow a better understanding of biogeochemical cycles, and especially the assessment of changes in trace elements and contaminants in the oceans due to anthropogenic influences, as well as its effects on ecosystems and climate. Computational models are to be constructed to simulate the conditions and processes of the modern oceans and to allow predictions. The environmental changes arising from human activity since the 18th century (also called the Anthropocene) have made the Earth System even more complex. Anthropogenic activities have altered both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and the legacy of these impacts in the oceans include: a) pollution of the marine environment by solid waste, including plastics; b) pollution by chemical and medical (including those for veterinary use) substances such as hormones, antibiotics, legal and illegal drugs, leading to possible endocrine disruption of marine organisms; and c) ocean acidification, the collateral effect of anthropogenic emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere, irreversible in the human life time scale. Unfortunately, the anthropogenic alteration of the hydrosphere due to inputs of plastics, metal, hydrocarbons, contaminants of emerging concern and even with formerly "exotic" trace elements, such us rare earth elements is likely to accelerate in the near future. These emerging contaminants would likely soon present difficulties for studies in pristine environments. All this knowledge brings with it a great responsibility: helping to envisage viable adaptation and mitigation solutions to the problems identified. The greatest challenge faced by Brazil is currently to create a framework project to develop education, science and technology applied to oceanography and related areas. This framework would strengthen the present working groups and enhance capacity building, allowing a broader Brazilian participation in joint international actions and scientific programs. Recently, the establishment of the National Institutes of Science and Technology (INCTs) for marine science, and the creation of the National Institute of Oceanographic and Hydrological Research represent an exemplary start. However, the participation of the Brazilian academic community in the latest assaults on the frontier of chemical oceanography is extremely limited, largely due to: i. absence of physical infrastructure for the preparation and processing of field samples at ultra-trace level; ii. limited access to oceanographic cruises, due to the small number of Brazilian vessels and/or absence of "clean" laboratories on board; iii. restricted international cooperation; iv. limited analytical capacity of Brazilian institutions for the analysis of trace elements in seawater; v. high cost of ultrapure reagents associated with processing a large number of samples, and vi. lack of qualified technical staff. Advances in knowledge, analytic capabilities and the increasing availability of analytical resources available today offer favorable conditions for chemical oceanography to grow. The Brazilian academic community is maturing and willing to play a role in strengthening the marine science research programs by connecting them with educational and technological initiatives in order to preserve the oceans and to promote the development of society.

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