Technology Development 

Monitoring Devices

Monitoring devices provide a hands-on tool for communities, industries and managers to adapt their practices when corrosive, or low pH, conditions occur.  The Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) is funding technology development on both the East and West coasts for monitoring devices which allow shellfish hatcheries and grow out operations to know when corrosive conditions are present so that they can adapt their methods. OAP required that these projects involve a private industry partner that could move the devices to commercial production. Complementing coastal monitoring, real-time data from offshore buoys now act as an early warning system for shellfish hatcheries, signaling the approach of cold, low pH seawater a day or two before it arrives in the sensitive coastal waters where young oyster larvae are produced. The data have enabled hatchery managers to schedule production when water quality is good and avoid wasting valuable energy and other resources when water quality is poor. Other adaptation approaches taken by hatcheries have included adding soda ash to low pH waters to raise it to levels shellfish can tolerate.

Biological Tools 

In some cases, natural marine ecosystems and species may already have ways to shelter neighboring habitats and organisms from ocean acidification by absorbing carbon dioxide from the seawater.  Scientists at multiple NOAA facilities are investigating kelp as one of these biological tools to draw down carbon dioxide from local waters.  OAP-funded scientists are studying kelp for this use in Puget Sound, where it can grow side by side with shellfish hatcheries to manage harmful effects of ocean acidification.  Similarly, OAP-funded scientists are also studying the beneficial effects of seagrass for local populations of corals, which is leading to the development of coral reef management strategies to protect seagrass beds.

Iron Fertilization

Iron fertilization is a controversial geoengineering approach suggested as a strategy to mitigate climate change. The approach entails adding iron to the oceans to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom, which would enhance the rate of carbon dioxide exchange from the atmosphere to the oceans. The effectiveness and feasibility of iron fertilization have been debated, but even if viable, this approach actually works directly counter to mitigating ocean acidification because it promotes the movement of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the ocean where it is the primary driver of ocean acidification. Research carried out by NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program has demonstrated that phytoplankton blooms actually generate low pH/high carbon dioxide conditions in the subsurface deep waters. This already commonly occurs in coastal waters in association with low oxygen conditions. So while iron fertilization may remain an area of interest as a potential climate mitigation strategy, it will exacerbate ocean acidification in coastal waters. 

Breeding Research

The United States Department of Agriculture and NOAA Sea Grant have supported research to develop oysters that are more resilient to ocean acidification. Through the Small Business Innovation Research program, NOAA has also funded work to identify and develop ocean acidification-resistent strains of red abalone.

 

STORIES OF ADAPTATION

Ocean Acidification – What it means and how to stop it

United Nationals Development Programme

In the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has set forth a bold new vision for global development and committed to achieving it by the year 2030.   SDG 14 calls for us to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” While most of the targets in SDG 14 cover ocean issues and challenges that are well known to most, such as pollution and overfishing, one SDG 14 target, 14.3, may not be so familiar: 14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels. What is ocean acidification, and why is it so important to ocean sustainability and therefore to the SDG agenda?

Thursday, March 16, 2017
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