Understanding the exposure of the nation’s living marine resources such as shellfish and corals to changing ocean chemistry is a primary goal for the NOAA OAP. Repeat hydrographic surveys, ship-based surface observations, and time series stations (mooring and ship-based) in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans have allowed us to begin to understand the long-term changes in carbonate chemistry in response to ocean acidification.

Buoys & Moorings

There are currently 19 OAP-supported buoys in coastal, open-ocean and coral reef waters which contribute to NOAA's Ocean Acidification Monitoring Program, with other deployments planned.

Currently, there are two types of floating devices which instruments can be added in order to measure various ocean characteristics - buoys and wave gliders. Buoys are moored, allowing them to remain stationary and for scientists to get measurements from the same place over time. The time series created from these measurements are key to understanding how ocean chemistry is changing over time. There are also buoys moored in the open-ocean and near coral reef ecosystems to monitor the changes in the carbonate chemistry in these ecosystems. The MAP CO2 sensors on these buoys measure pCO2 every three hours.

Access our buoy data


Ship surveys

Research cruises are a way to collect information about a certain ecosystem or area of interest.

For decades, scientists have learned about physical, chemical and biological properties of the ocean and coasts by observations made at sea. Measurements taken during research cruises can be used to validate data taken by autonomous instruments. One instrument often used on research cruises is a conductivity, temperature, and depth sensor (CTD), which measures the physical state of the water (temperature, salinity, and depth). The sensor often goes in the water on a rosette, which also carries niskin bottles used to collect water samples from various depths in the water column. Numerous chemical and biological properties can be measured from water collected in niskin bottles.

Ships of Opportunity

Ships of Opportunity (SOPs) or Volunteer Observing Ships (VOSs) are vessels at sea for other reasons than ocean acidification studies, such as commercial cargo ships or ferries.

The owners of these vessels allow scientific instrumentation that measures ocean acidification (OA) parameters to be installed and collect data while the ship is underway. This allows data on ocean chemistry to be collected in many remote areas of the world's ocean, such as high latitude waters, long distances from land (e.g. mid-basin waters), and places not easily accessible by research cruises. These partnerships have greatly increased the spatial coverage of OA monitoring world-wide. To learn more, check out the Ships of Opportunity programs established by the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic Marine Laboratory (AOML).

Wave Gliders

Scientists at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) are working with engineers at Liquid Robotics, Inc. to optimize a Carbon Wave Glider.

This instrument (pictured above) can be driven via satellite from land. Carbon Wave Gliders can be outfitted with pCO2, pH, oxygen, temperature and salinity sensors, and the glider’s equipment takes measurements as it moves through the water. The glider’s motion is driven by wave energy, and its sensors are powered through solar cells and batteries, when needed.


NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) in partnership with OAP is engaged in a coordinated and targeted series of field observations, moorings and ecological monitoring efforts in coral reef ecosystems.

These efforts are designed to document the dynamics of ocean acidification (OA) in coral reef systems and track the status and trends in ecosystem response. This effort serves as a subset of a broader CRCP initiative referred to as the National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan, which was established to support conservation of the Nation’s coral reef ecosystems. The OAP contributes to this plan through overseeing and coordinating carbonate chemistry monitoring. This monitoring includes a broadly distributed spatial water sampling campaign complemented by a more limited set of moored instruments deployed at a small subset of representative sites in both the Atlantic/Caribbean and Pacific regions. Coral reef carbonate chemistry monitoring is implemented by researchers at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and NOAA's PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystems Division.




Genetic and phenotypic response of larval American lobster to ocean warming and acidification across New England’s steep thermal gradient

Dr. Richard Wahle & Dr. David Fields, University of Maine & Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

Co-PI's Wahle (UMaine) and Fields (Bigelow Laboratory) join Co-investigator Greenwood (UPEI) in this US-Canadian collaboration. The proposed study is designed to fill knowledge gaps in our understanding of the response of lobster larvae to ocean warming and acidification across lobster subpopulations occupying New England’s steep north-south thermal gradient. The research involves a comprehensive assessment of the physiological and behavioral response of lobster larvae to climate model-projected end-century ocean temperature and acidification conditions. We will address the following two primary objectives over the 2-year duration of the proposed study:

(1)  To determine whether projected end-century warming and acidification impact lobster larval survival, development, respiration rate, behavior and gene expression; and

(2)  To determine whether larvae from southern subpopulations are more resistant than larvae from northern populations to elevated temperature and pCO2.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Synthesis and understanding of ocean acidification biological effects data by use of attribute-specific, individual-based models

Chris Chambers, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

This project uses data from experimental studies on the biological effects of ocean acidification (OA), largely funded by NOAA's Ocean Acidification Program (OAP), to construct realistic population‐process models of marine finfish populations.  The models are of an individual‐ based model (IBM) category that use detailed biological responses of individuals to OA.  This tool synthesizes OA data in two different ways.  First, it accumulates and connects data through mechanistic relationships between the environment and fish life‐history.  Second, it allows exploration of the population‐level consequences of CO2 effects (the source of OA) which explicitly include population effects carried over from the highly sensitive early life‐stages (ELS).   This information is fundamental to understanding the community and ecosystem effects of OA on living marine resources.  

Project efforts are directed at two different, complimentary levels.   At the more detailed, specific level, winter flounder – an economically important, well‐studied fish of Mid‐Atlantic to New England waters – will be used as a model subject.  Prior studies on winter flounder, augmented by OAP‐funded experimental work at NOAA/NEFSC, will provide estimates of CO2 effects on key life‐history and ecological parameters (e.g., fertilization, larval growth, development, and survival).  An IBM previously developed by the PIs will be updated and expanded to include OA effects on these parameters.  The winter flounder OA‐IBM will be exercised by evaluating the responses of the ELSs of this species under multiple scenarios:  high average levels of CO2 representing future oceans in shelf habitats; high and variable CO2 depicting future inshore, estuarine habitats; and covariances of CO2 with other environmental stressors (e.g., warmer waters, hypoxia).  At a general level and applicable to other species, the project will develop a web‐based tool that allows users to add details from other marine finfish of the NE USA and OA‐affected processes as relevant OA data on those species become available. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Categories: Projects

Testing critical population level hypothesis regarding OA effects on early life history stages of marine fish for the N.E. U.S.

Chris Chambers, NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center

The primary goal of our OA projects (NEFSC Howard Laboratory) is to understand the impacts of increased CO2 and acidity of ocean and estuarine waters on important finfish species of our region. Our tactical objectives during FY12-14 were to develop, test, and then implement an experimental system that allows for the estimation of impacts of high CO2 and associated increased acidity of marine waters on the ELS of economically and ecologically important finfish species important to the NE USA. In FY15-17 we are building upon investments in research capacity and knowledge, and our experiments are addressing higher order questions that fold very well into one of the goals of the Interagency Working Group on OA – undertaking research to examine species-specific and multi-species physiological responses including behavioral and evolutionary adaptive capacities. We have four higher level objectives for our FY15-17 studies. 

First, we are testing our hypothesis that the resilience of the individuals in a population is inversely related to the variability of the CO2 in the habitat the population occupies (see also, Murray et al. 2014). This evaluation is being done by conducting comparative experiments among winter flounder from separate and distinct source populations whose resident habitats differ in characteristic levels and stability in CO2. Second, we are evaluating the role of parental exposure in the resilience / susceptibility of offspring to elevated CO2 (Sunday et al. 2014, Malvezzi et al. 2015). For these transgenerational studies, we are using three different forage species (original intent was to use Atlantic cod broodstock housed at the University of Maine but logistics and staffing decisions there precluded our use of those fish). Third, we are expanding our synthesis and meta-analysis of biological effects of CO2 on finfish. Lastly, we continue our education and outreach efforts on OA themes by mentoring students, conducting surveys, and providing tours of our OA experimental facilities.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Categories: Projects