Societal impacts and adaptation strategies

Ocean acidification is a threat to food security, economies, and culture because of its potential impacts on marine ecosystem services. Information on how ocean acidification will impact ecosystems and the services they provide can help guide how we adapt to and mitigate forecasted changes.


The OAP funds modeling studies to advance our understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on coastal ecosystems and fisheries.

Scientists can use a wide variety of models to project the potential progression of acidification in different regions, the impacts that changes in chemistry may have on marine life, and how these changes could affect a variety of ecosystem services including fisheries, aquaculture, and protection of coasts by coral reefs. For example, projections of ocean acidification can be incorporated into food-web models to better understand how changing ocean chemistry could affect harvested species, protected species, and the structure of the food web itself. Economic-forecast models can be used to analyze the economic impacts of potential changes in fisheries harvest caused by ocean acidification.

Figure from: Harvey et al. 2010

Ecosystem Modeling

Experiments on species response suggest that ocean acidification will directly affect a wide variety of organisms from calcifying shellfish and coral to fish and phytoplankton. Ecosystem models can capture the complex effects of ocean acidification on entire ecosystems.

How marine organisms respond to ocean acidification will be influenced by their reaction to chemistry change and their interactions with others species, such as their predators and prey. Scientists use ecosystem models to understand how ocean chemistry may affect entire ecosystems because they account for the complex interactions between organisms. Output from such modeling exercises can inform management of fisheries, protected species, and other important natural resources. Because ecosystem feedbacks are complex, understanding the uncertainty associated with these models is critical to effective management.

Economic Projections

Projections of the economic impacts of ocean acidification can be created by combining economic models with findings from laboratory experiments and ecological models.

For example, these links can be made for port communities or specific fisheries through modeling changes in fish harvest. Researchers at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center have developed bio-economic forecasts for the economically and culturally important species red king crab. Researchers at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center are developing projections of how the economies of regional port communities might be altered by potential changes in West Coast fisheries caused by ocean acidification.


How can we adapt to our changing ocean? 

The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) is working to build knowledge about how to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification (OA) and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs.







Turning current observations into forecasts is the key mechanism by which adaptation plans are created.

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. 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.


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.


Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally


Management strategies use information provided by research and tools that can be used to make sound decisions to effectively conserve marine resources. Baseline research about organism and community sensitivity to ocean acidification is incorporated into these strategies, in an effort to sustain these resources for the future.

Before management plans can be created it is necessary to have baseline research about the effects of ocean acidification on marine resources, such as Pacific oysters, Dungeness crabs and rockfish. The OAP funds NOAA Fisheries Science Centers to expose various life stages of valuable species to present and future acidification conditions. The biological response research is them incorporated into models that can be used to create tools for managers to use so that they can test different scenarios on species’ populations and habitats.  Modeling efforts led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are now being used to produce one of these tools for Atlantic sea scallop fisheries. The dashboard will allow managers to test the impacts of different management actions on scallop populations.  In the Pacific Northwest, NOAA, the University of Washington, and shellfish industry scientists have formed a strong partnership to adapt to ocean acidification impacts that have already affected the shellfish industry. Together these researchers determined that acidification was threatening oyster production and offered an approach to address it. They installed equipment to monitor carbon chemistry at shellfish hatcheries and worked with hatchery managers to develop methods that protect developing oyster larvae from exposure to low pH waters.   Early warning tools are now being used to forecast seasonal acidification conditions to enable shellfish growers to adapt their practices.


EXPLORE THE IOOS Pacific Region Ocean Acidification
Data portal

This portal provides a real-time data stream of ocean acidification data that can be used by shellfish growers, regional managers, stakeholders and the public. The portal can be used to make resource decisions and build adaptation strategies.


A Strategy for Ocean and Coastal Acidification (OCA) Education and Citizen Science Monitoring in the Northeast

Beth Turner

This project will cross-calibrate citizen science monitoring protocols for ocean acidification among independent organizations in the Northeast by developing a replicable citizen science monitoring training program. This will be accomplished by providing trainings and materials specific for volunteer and citizen science audiences through a series of regional workshops. The project team will (1) develop the first replicable citizen science monitoring program in accordance with recently developed EPA guidance document, Guidelines for Measuring Changes in Seawater pH and Associated Carbonate Chemistry in Coastal Environments of the Eastern United States, (2) provide in-person technical trainings and educational materials through an initial series of three regional workshops in Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut and (3) support the successful use of citizen science participation in research and management by building on the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network’s extensive capacity and stakeholder network.

Friday, April 28, 2017
Categories: Projects

Tracking Ocean Alkalinity using New Carbon Measurement Technologies (TAACT)

Joe Salisbury

This project will expand the quantity and quality of ocean acidification (OA) monitoring across Northeastern U.S. coastal waters. The new OA data and incorporation of the world’s first commercial total alkalinity (TA) sensor into our regional observing system (NERACOOS) are designed to supply needed baseline information in support of a healthy and sustainable shellfish industry, and to aid in assessments and projections for wild fisheries. In working with partners to develop this proposal, clear concerns were brought forward regarding the potential impacts of increasing ocean acidity that extend from nearshore hatcheries and aquaculture to broader Gulf of Maine finfish and shellfish industries and their management. Stakeholder input and needs shaped the project scope such that both nearshore and offshore users will be served by TA sensor deployments on partner platforms, including time series data collection at an oyster aquaculture site, on the NOAA Ship of Opportunity AX-2 line, and on federal and State of Maine regional fish trawl surveys. In all, five different deployment platforms will be used to enhance ocean acidification monitoring within the Northeast Coastal Acidification Network (NE-CAN) with significant improvement in temporal and spatial coverage.

 Adding the all-new TA measurement capability to the regional observation network will provide more accurate, certain, and reliable OA monitoring, and an important project objective is to demonstrate and relay this information to regional partners. Data products to be developed from the multi-year measurements include nearshore and offshore baseline OA seasonal time series as well as threshold indices tied to acidification impacts on larval production at the Mook Sea Farm oyster hatchery. An outreach and technical supervision component will include the transfer of carbonate system observing technologies to our partners and to the broader fishing industry, resource management, and science communities. NERACOOS will provide data management and communication (DMAC) services and work towards implementing these technological advances into the IOOS network.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Interactions between ocean acidification and eutrophication in estuaries: Modeling opportunities and limitations for shellfish restoration

Jeremy Testa, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

The objective of this project is to make significant strides in bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and current management needs by integrating existing biogeochemical model frameworks, field measurements, and experimental work toward the goals of (1) delineating atmospheric and eutrophication drivers of Chesapeake Bay acidification and improve our understanding of estuarine carbonate chemistry, (2) developing a spatially explicit framework to identify shellfish restoration areas most and least prone to acidification impacts, and (3) better understanding feedbacks associated with future environmental conditions and shellfish restoration goals estuary-wide and within a model tributary. This effort includes (1) a field campaign to make the first comprehensive study of the spatial and temporal variability in the carbonate system in Chesapeake Bay, (2) experiments to quantify both carbonate and nutrient exchange between intact oyster reefs and the surrounding water while measuring response of these fluxes to reef structure and acidification, and (3) an advancement in numerical modeling tools to simultaneously simulate the dynamics of eutrophication, hypoxia, carbonate chemistry, and oyster reef growth and interaction with the water-column under present and future conditions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Flexing mussels: Does Mytilus edulis have the capacity to overcome effects of Ocean Acidification?

Dianna K Padilla, Stony Brook University

We are likely to see "winners", those species or individuals that are most resilient in the face of climate change, and "losers" those species or individuals that are least capable of robust performance under stressful conditions.  At present, we cannot predict winners and losers, and do not know whether responses to environmental stress are primarily driven by phenotypic plasticity, broad performance under different environmental conditions, or if there are genetic or epigenetic factors that can result in cross-generational directional changes in populations, resulting in more resilience under stressful conditions of OA.   This project has two objectives: 

1)  To test for cross-generational adaptation to the impacts of increasing ocean acidification on blue mussels, either through phenotypic acclimation or through heritable changes. 

2)  To determine if there are tradeoffs in growth and development across life stages in response to stress induced by ocean acidification in blue mussels.\

The results of our experiments can then be used to develop management practices for wild populations and more robust aquaculture practices for blue mussels. From an aquaculture perspective, if animals from certain source populations are more resilient to OA stress, those locations could be targeted for collection of wild seed that will produce resilient mussels in aquaculture leases.  Furthermore, the environmental characteristics of these advantageous site(s) could then be characterized to predict other sites that may also produce resilient mussels.  Overall, the data obtained from this proposed work could be used to enhance mussel culture, an economically important activity of growing importance in our region.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Sensitivity of larval and juvenile sand lance Ammodytes dubius on Stellwagen Bank to predicted ocean warming, acidification, and deoxygenation

Hannes Baumann, University of Connecticut

This proposal will quantify the sensitivity of a key forage fish in the Northwest Atlantic to the individual and combined effects of the major factors comprising the ocean climate change syndrome: warming, acidification, and deoxygenation. We will rear embryos of Northern sand lance Ammodytes dubius, obtained by strip-spawning wild adults from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) through larval and early juvenile stages in a purpose- built factorial system at different factorial combinations of temperature, CO2 and oxygen.

Our first objective is to quantify individual and combined effects of temperature × CO2 (year 1) and temperature × CO2 × DO (year 2) on A. dubius growth and survival. We hypothesize that warming in combination with high CO2 (low pH)  will have additive or synergistically negative effects, whereas the addition of low DO as a third stressor will have stark, synergistically negative effects on all traits. Our second objective is to characterize the swimming behavior of A. dubius larvae that have been reared under combinations of elevated temperature × CO2. We hypothesize that combined stressors will have synergistically negative effects on the development of larval sensory systems, which express themselves and can thus be quantified as changes in larval swimming behavior. Our third objective is to take advantage of the rare winter sampling activities for this project to quantify CO2, pH, and DO variability in benthic waters on Stellwagen Bank through bottle collections and short-term sensor deployments. We hypothesize that bottom water pH and DO levels during the sand lance spawning season might be routinely lower than levels in surface waters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects