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.


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

Time series assessments of OA and Carbon system properties in the western Gulf of Maine

Joe Salisbury, University of New Hampshire

In terms of the commercial value of its shellfish and its importance as a finfish breeding ground, the western Gulf of Maine (GOM) is certainly one of the most valuable ecosystems in the United States. Because over 80% of organisms landed in the GOM must utilize calcium carbonate during certain critical life stages, the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on ecosystems are a topic of increasing regional concern. This notion was accentuated by recent demands from marine industry stakeholders and the State Legislature in Maine who convened an Ocean Acidification Commission to study and mitigate the effects of OA. By nature of its cool temperatures and copious freshwater subsidies from both remote and local origins, the western GOM may be particularly sensitive to future acidification stresses (Salisbury et al, 2008; Wang et al, 2013). With the goals of 1) providing data critical for climate studies and local decision support, and 2) understanding of regional processes affecting acidification, we propose to maintain data collection efforts at and proximal to UNH-PMEL acidification buoy. We will deploy, maintain and recover the buoy and its suite of instruments that provide quality oceanographic and carbonate system data. We will supplement these activities with seasonal cruises that map surface regional pCO2 and several surface variables supplemented with hydrographic and optical profiles at six stations along the UNH Wilkinson Basin Line (aka Portsmouth Line), which runs orthogonal to the coast. This in turn will be supplemented with ancillary bottle sampling and all will be used in research aimed at understanding processes controlling the dynamically evolving carbonate system in the western GOM.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Categories: Projects

Monitoring of water column DIC, TA and pH on the N.E. U.S. shelf and the development of OA Indicators to inform Marine resource managers

Jon Hare, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

The Ecosystem Monitoring program of the Northeast Fisheries Science Center conducts four dedicated cruises per year covering the entire extent of the Northeast United States (NEUS).  NOAA OAP provides funding for the processing of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TAlk ) samples from two Ecosystem Monitoring cruises. As part of these cruises, water samples have been taken at a subset of locations and at a range of depths. The depth-discrete nature of this sampling is very important and provides data to complement the more intensive surface sampling conducted by the pCO2 sensors. These samples are used to measure DIC and TAlk and their analyses are conducted by AOML.  In addition, samples for among lab comparisons have been collected. Nutrient samples are also taken and are analyzed at University of Maine. 

Initially, these samples will be used for an analysis comparing the extent of ocean acidification on the NEUS compared to the late 1970's. Subsequently, these samples will be used to provide continued monitoring of the state of ocean acidification. In addition, these samples will be used to better understand the relationship between carbonate chemistry and nutrient speciation on the NEUS. While interpretation of this data is complex, a consolidated analysis is being undertaken to develop an “Ocean Acidification Indicator” for the Northeast Shelf. This metric will provide resource managers and vested stakeholders a concise interpretation of current and near-term expected conditions of acidification in the region. This project also coordinates and cooperates with a number of other regional partners in an attempt to fulfill the regional monitoring vision of National OA Plan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Categories: Projects

East Coast OA (ECOA) Cruise

Joe Salisbury (University of New Hampshire) & Wei-Jun Cai (University of Delaware)

NOAA academic partners Salisbury and Cai will organize and lead a 34-days cruise covering 12 transects of the U.S. and Canadian coast oceans from Nova Scotia in the north to the Gulf of Maine, Long Island Sound, Mid-Atlantic and Southern Bight regions, ending with a transect off of mid Florida. This cruise will serve as a synoptic characterization of the marine carbonate parameters of the coastal ocean with increased coverage in nearshore areas that have not surveyed in the previous cruises and subsurface dynamics that are not captured from using buoyed assets or ships of opportunity. The climate quality data from these cruises provide an important link to the Global Ocean Acidification Network (GOAN) effort, and serves as a start of a long-term record of dynamics and processes controlling Ocean Acidification (OA) on the coastal shelves. To this end there is an increasing focus on these cruises to perform rate measurements (e.g. NPP/NEP/NEC) for validation measurements of autonomous assets and buoyed assets, for algorithm development utilizing remotely sensed signals that are used to characterize saturation states, and to project the future state of ocean acidification in the project area. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Categories: Projects