Forecasting

Forecasting provides insight into a vision of the future by using models that visualize how quickly and where ocean chemistry will be changing in tandem with an understanding of how sensitive marine resources and communities are to these changes.  By making predictions about the future, we can better adapt and prepare for ocean acidification.

Modeling Projects

Modeling provides a glimpse into the future by combining predicted changes to ocean chemistry with impacts to both marine organisms and people.  These models allow communities and fishery managers to plan ahead and adapt to ocean acidification. Models are underway or have been completed for some of the most vulnerable species, such as Atlantic sea scallops, which are vulnerable to acidification impacts in their early life stages and represent the highest grossing single species fishery in the United States. The Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) funded a modeling project led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to develop an integrated model for forecasting the impacts of ocean acidification (OA) on the Atlantic sea scallop fishery.  The new model connects chemical changes with population changes and economic information that will be used to create interactive tools for decision makers. NOAA scientists have played an important role in development of the J-SCOPE forecast system, used to create seasonal forecasts for the North Pacific region.  These forecasts will allow fisheries managers to predict seasonal outlooks for management decisions.

Vulnerability Assessments 

Learning how sensitive marine organisms are to ocean acidification is an important part of creating management plans. These “vulnerability assessments” lay the groundwork for adaptation strategies by identifying the most ecologically, economically or culturally  important resources. Scientists at NOAA Fisheries, which are supported  by the Ocean Acidification Program (OAP), are developing vulnerability assessments in US regions that include ocean acidification as part of fishery management plans. These ocean acidification vulnerability assessments have been completed in the Northeast for a wide variety of fishes and invertebrates, such as cod and sea scallops, and are near completion in Alaska.  Additionally, a vulnerability assessment was completed for shellfish aquaculture throughout the United States.  

From Observations to Forecasts

Learning ways in which communities can adapt to ocean acidification is an important strategy for protecting human health and marine ecosystems.  Turning current observations into forecasts is the key mechanism by which these adaptation plans are created. Coastal forecasts for ocean acidification are currently being developed for the West Coast, Chesapeake Bay, the East Coast, Caribbean and the western Gulf of Mexico. Ocean acidification hotspots are areas that are particularly vulnerable, either from a biological, economic, or cultural perspective.  Identification of these hot spots in coastal waters is a priority for the Coastal Acidification Networks (CANs), fostered by the Ocean Acidification Program around the country.  These networks bring together scientists, decision makers, fishermen and other stakeholders to identify and answer the most important questions about acidification and its effects in the region.


 

STORIES OF ADAPTATION

New tool helps oyster growers prepare for changing ocean chemistry

NOAA Research, Laura Newcomb

Thursday, January 26, 2017

For Bill Mook, coastal acidification is one thing his oyster hatchery cannot afford to ignore. 

Mook Sea Farm depends on seawater from the Gulf of Maine pumped into a Quonset hut-style building where tiny oysters are grown in tanks. Mook sells these tiny oysters to other oyster farmers or transfers them to his oyster farm on the Damariscotta River where they grow large enough to sell to restaurants and markets on the East Coast.

The global ocean has soaked up one third of human-caused carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions since the start of the Industrial Era, increasing the CO2 and acidity of seawater. Increased seawater acidity reduces available carbonate, the building blocks used by shellfish to grow their shells. Rain washing fertilizer and other nutrients into nearshore waters can also increase ocean acidity.

Back in 2013, Mook teamed up with fisherman-turned-oceanographer Joe Salisbury of the University of New Hampshire to understand how changing seawater chemistry may hamper the growth and survival of oysters in his hatchery and oyster farm.

Salisbury and his team adapted and installed in the hatchery sophisticated technology that Mook calls “the black box.” Sensors housed inside a heavy black plastic case the size of a breadbox estimate the amount of carbonate in seawater pumped into the hatchery by measuring carbon dioxide and the alkalinity, or the capacity of the water to buffer against increases in acidity. The "black box" was developed with funding from the NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program and Integrated Ocean Observing System.

Mook compares ocean acidification to a train barreling down the tracks headed for his business. By measuring the year-to-year changes in carbonate and matching that against how well his oysters do in a particular year, he says he’ll understand how oysters grow under different conditions. These tools help him learn how fast and at what time the train may arrive.

“We see a growth opportunity for this equipment,” Salisbury says. He and his team are now using “black boxes” in the waters off Puerto Rico to map where changes in acidity may contribute to coral reef erosion. Starting this year, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow will be outfitted with black boxes to collect carbonate chemistry data during fisheries surveys along the eastern seaboard. NOAA will use this data to help improve predictions of how ocean acidification may affect valuable resources and the people, like Mook, whose livelihoods depend on them.

Editor's note: Laura Newcomb is a Sea Grant Knauss Fellow at NOAA Research's Office of Laboratories and Cooperative Institutes. 

For more information, please contact Monica Allen, director of public affairs at NOAA Research, at 301-734-1123 or monica.allen@noaa.gov


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