National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  

Broad Overview of and Rationale for Ocean Acidification Work 

Understanding ocean acidification and developing reliable projections for how ocean acidification will affect living marine resources drives NOAA’s work on ocean acidification. NOAA’s activities on these topics are necessary for sustainably managing living marine resources in a changing world, enabling local communities to better understand, prepare for, and adapt to changes, and informing national and international carbon assessments and mitigation discussions. NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) was established under Section 12406 of the FOARAM Act to oversee and coordinate ocean acidification research, monitoring, and other activities consistent with the Strategic Research Plan. As part of its responsibilities, the OAP incorporates a competitive, merit-based process for awarding grants on ocean acidification research.  To date, the OAP has provided grants for research projects that explore the effects of ocean acidification on ecosystems and human socioeconomics.

On-going Projects Related to Ocean Acidification

The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program supports activities across NOAA and in close partnership with academic institutions. The NOAA OAP Director also chairs the IWG-OA. Current ocean acidification activities funded through NOAA’s OAP office require considerable leverage from the participating NOAA labs and science centers. The OAP’s trans-disciplinary portfolio of research and monitoring includes:  the establishment and maintenance of a long-term ocean acidification monitoring network; experimental species response studies; biogeochemical, ecological, and socioeconomic modeling, including projections of ocean acidification and its impacts; and fostering the development of adaptation strategies for impacted stakeholders. The ocean acidification monitoring network is currently comprised of regional geochemical/ecological surveys, fixed time-series stations, and autonomous underway observations. To date, these research and monitoring efforts have been primarily focused on documenting the complex dynamics of carbonate chemistry within the United States coastal margins and coral reef ecosystems but also include a limited number of international long-term, open-ocean sites.  Experimental studies supported by the OAP investigate how species’ survival, growth, and physiology are impacted by ocean acidification, and explore how coastal and marine species may respond to ocean acidification. NOAA researchers use data from these studies to improve understanding of how aquaculture, wild fisheries, and food webs may change in response to ocean acidification.  NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information serves as the data management focal point for the diverse range of data sets generated by the OAP through its newly developed Ocean Acidification Data Stewardship project.

Near-future Activities Related to Ocean Acidification (Planned within the Next 2 Years)

NOAA near-future ocean acidification activities are categorized as those that could occur under OAP funding at the current level and new activities that could occur under higher funding levels. At higher funding levels, NOAA will improve understanding of progression of ocean acidification in coastal and marine environments and the impacts of ocean acidification on marine resources and will develop tools and adaptive strategies for resource managers, affected industries, and stakeholders.

Existing Activities that will Continue under the Current Funding Level

Research to understand the implications of ocean acidification – NOAA supports five experimental facilities to study the response of species to ocean acidification (Highlands, New Jersey; Kodiak, Alaska; Mukilteo and Manchester, Washington; Newport, Oregon).  Research at these facilities targets a range of shellfish, finfish, zooplankton, and phytoplankton species, all of which are economically or ecologically important.  NOAA also engages in vulnerability analyses of select regions to ocean acidification and supports meta-analysis work that builds understanding of patterns in species-response to ocean acidification.

Monitoring of ocean chemistry and biological effects – NOAA’s ocean acidification monitoring portfolio comprises a suite of observations ranging from repeated, large-scale, synoptic surveys of the major ocean basins to sustained, fixed, time-series stations. A variety of assets are used for monitoring, including fixed site observing platforms (e.g., moorings and piers), ships of opportunity, dedicated geochemical cruises, remote sensing, wave gliders, and profiling floats.  NOAA monitors the status and trends of United States coral reef ecosystems, assessing parameters related to both carbonate chemistry and ecology at one site in the Pacific Ocean basin and two in the Atlantic Ocean basin.  NOAA has also added carbon chemistry measurements to time series measurements of zooplankton in both the north Pacific and the north Atlantic Oceans.

Modeling to predict changes in the ocean carbon cycle and response of marine ecosystems and organisms – NOAA supports a number of regional modeling exercises on ocean carbon chemistry in the Greater Caribbean region and the California Current. NOAA also models how ocean acidification may affect coastal and marine ecosystems and living marine resources in the north Pacific and north Atlantic Oceans and compares the potential impacts of ocean acidification to the potential impacts of climate change and human uses of the marine environment. Ongoing research in NOAA uses advanced global earth system models to explore the global and regional historical and projected future expression of ocean acidification, incorporating emerging scientific understanding of the mechanisms, impacts, and feedbacks of ocean acidification in ocean biogeochemistry and marine ecosystems.  Quantifying past and future ocean carbon uptake associated with ocean acidification is an important part of NOAA's efforts to understand and project future climate, information that informs overall environmental stewardship.

Technology development and quality assurance – NOAA’s ocean acidification-related technology activities focus on the development of observing gliders and a dissolved inorganic carbon sensor and on methods for determining variation in the progression of ocean acidification and ecosystem response in coral reefs. NOAA is also investing in development of easy-to-use, low-cost, shore-based monitoring systems that are being tested in partnership with the oyster industry on the United States West and East Coasts and Alaska as systems useful for allowing industry to adapt to ocean acidification. Additionally, NOAA focuses on development of laboratory systems to study species response to ocean acidification and alternatives for optimizing carbon chemistry measurements in these systems.

Assessment of socioeconomic impacts and adaptive strategies to conserve marine organisms and marine ecosystems – NOAA’s ocean acidification-related socio-economic work focuses on the impacts of ocean acidification on fisheries and fishery-based economies. These projects use food web or population models (sometimes linked to economic models) to explore the potential changes in abundance, productivity, and distribution of living marine resources; alternatives for managing living marine resources under acidified conditions; and potential impacts of ocean acidification on human socio- economic systems.

Education, outreach, and engagement strategy on ocean acidification – NOAA released an Ocean Acidification Education Implementation Plan in September 2014. To fulfill goal 1 of the Plan, NOAA is conducting a national needs assessment of ocean acidification education and communication providers to determine effective messages and resources, and identify challenges, lessons learned, gaps, and needs. NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries and Ocean Acidification Program also co-host a national webinar series called Sharing Ocean Acidification Resources for Communicators and Educators, which provides tools to formal and informal educators and stakeholders across the country to promote a more integrated and effective ocean acidification education community. NOAA works with a number of experiential learning facilities, such as the Seattle Aquarium in Washington and the Exploratorium in California, to educate the public about ocean acidification and its impacts, and has hosted workshops to facilitate these educational efforts.  NOAA staff participates in efforts of local, state, tribal, and regional policy makers, managers, and stakeholders to educate and inform decision makers about ocean acidification science (e.g., Washington Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification).  NOAA is heavily involved in emerging regional ocean acidification collaboratives or networks such as the California Current Acidification Network, Northeast Coastal Acidification Network, and Southeast Ocean and Coastal Acidification Network. NOAA develops a variety of educational and outreach resources, including outreach kits with lesson plans and websites with summaries and explanations of ocean acidification, ocean acidification-related science efforts, and potential impacts on living marine resources internationally, nationally, and regionally. NOAA also trains many undergraduate students in ocean acidification research methodologies through the NOAA Hollings Scholar Program and other internship programs.

Data management and synthesis – NOAA provides dedicated, long-term, archival online data discovery and access for a diverse range of OA data from multi-disciplinary field observations, laboratory experiments, and modeling exercises for both NOAA and interagency OA data partners. NOAA developed a metadata content standard that is capable of accommodating OA data from moorings, research cruises, models, and laboratory or mesocosm studies on species’ response to OA. With the metadata template, NOAA has established metadata display formats that can best serve information about OA data sets to data users. An OA data search portal was launched in 2015 to allow users to discover and access OA data sets with ease. NOAA is also investing in development of an online OA data submission interface that will make it easier for users to submit OA data. NOAA supports OA data management through the development of global synthesis products. Over the last year, NOAA authors published their first synthesis effort on the global distribution of aragonite saturation state. A similar effort on the global pH distribution is under development.

New Activities under Higher Funding Levels

Enhanced U.S. coastal ocean acidification observing system – Improved understanding of coastal ocean acidification processes requires strategic coordination of observing infrastructure and chemical,  physical, and ecological process monitoring. Development of regional observing networks (e.g., Puget Sound, Gulf of Maine, select Pacific islands, Chesapeake Bay, United States Southeast Coast including Caribbean coral reefs, and Gulf of Mexico including the Flower Garden Banks) would be informed through competitive projects designed to optimize observing assets with respect to improved skill and cost efficiency. These studies would guide the development of an integrated enterprise of multi- platform observing and coupled ecological-process monitoring necessary to track carbon cycle dynamics and associated ecosystem response.

National Coral Reef Monitoring Program – The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program has initiated implementation of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP), which will provide a consistent flow of information about the status and trends of: environmental conditions at United States coral reefs, living coral reef resources, and the people and processes that interact with coral reef ecosystems.  The NCRMP coordinates a NOAA-wide, long-term approach to monitor coral reef ecosystems, including a partnership with NOAA’s OAP to support carbonate chemistry measurements in coral reef areas. Monitoring of the ecological responses of coral reef ecosystems to ocean acidification (e.g., changes to coral reef carbonate budgets, coral growth rates, bioerosion, and framework integrity) are made possible through OAP funding of targeted benthic community characterization, fine-scale rugosity assessments (e.g., how wrinkled structures are), indices of biodiversity (including that of cryptic species), coral coring, and crustose coralline algae recruitment and accretion rate monitoring. The NCRMP calls for establishing 6 sentinel sites across the United States coral reef ecosystems in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Three such sites have been established (Puerto Rico, Florida, and Hawaii), and in coming years, at least two additional sites would be established, including the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Understanding species and ecosystem response to ocean acidification – To address information gaps on the impact of ocean acidification on species of high economic vulnerability, the OAP would direct funding through regional requests for proposals, likely through regional Sea Grant programs.  New funding would be directed towards enhancing the NOAA experimental systems used to study species response to ocean acidification with new control and chemistry monitoring technologies.  The OAP would also consider expanding the types of species response metrics that can be measured during experiments (e.g., genomics, neurophysiology).

Far-future Activities Related to Ocean Acidification (Planned within the Next 3-5 Years)

NOAA far-future ocean acidification activities are categorized as those that could occur under OAP funding at the current level and new activities that could occur under higher funding levels.

Existing Activities that will Continue under the Current Funding Level

Assure continuity of core existing and sustained ocean acidification activities – The OAP’s leveraging of other NOAA funds to support its sustained activities leaves the OAP dependent on the funding for and strategic direction of the participating NOAA labs and science centers. Because the OAP aims to establish long-term time-series related to ocean acidification, the OAP will work closely with participating NOAA labs and science centers to maintain leverage support, which includes dedicated personnel to carry-out ocean acidification-related projects.

Enhance existing ocean acidification observational and experimental technologies – The OAP will adopt new but demonstrated observing technologies to improve the quality of ocean acidification data collected and reduce costs.

Foster integration of biological studies and geochemical monitoring – The OAP supports a diverse portfolio of ocean acidification activities ranging from direct geochemical observations at sea to manipulative controlled experiments in the laboratory. The OAP will foster the integration of these interdisciplinary efforts to improve understanding of the progression and consequences of ocean acidification. Through NCRMP monitoring and development of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network strategy, the OAP already is working to tightly link geochemical observations with ecological response monitoring.  Increasingly, the OAP will work to define gaps in ocean acidification observing requirements defined by ocean acidification species response studies and conversely assure that geochemical data inform ocean acidification biological response studies.

Ocean acidification capacity building – The OAP will strengthen efforts to foster international, national, tribal, regional, state, and local engagement on ocean acidification, such as the California Current Acidification Network, Northeast Coast Acidification Network, Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network, and Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center. A key part of strengthening engagement efforts is funding capacity-building projects (e.g., workshops, journal special issues, and website development).

New Activities under Higher Funding Levels

Regional coastal ocean acidification models – NOAA would advance the development of coastal ocean acidification models that are regionally optimized for characterizing carbonate chemistry dynamics.  To do so, OAP would develop competitive Federal funding opportunities to upgrade existing models of carbon chemistry. These models would provide information relevant to coastal management, such as nutrient or local atmospheric inputs into coastal systems and how these inputs affect local acidification at a range of spatial and temporal scales.  The models would rely heavily on data collected by the enhanced coastal observing system (described above) for validation.

Regional ocean acidification synthesis products for outreach – Data products developed for specific user types (e.g., resource managers and shellfish hatchery operators) would integrate ocean acidification  data to clearly communicate how ocean acidification is affecting coastal resources, ecosystems, and human communities. Products would include: 1) near real-time maps of ocean chemistry for regions identified as high priority for living marine resources and communities dependent on these resources; 2) short- and long-term forecasts of ocean chemistry (e.g., early warnings for shellfish growers); and 3) visualizations pertinent to the coastal resources (e.g., fisheries, protected habitats, and coral reefs) potentially threatened by ocean acidification. These products will be developed in close coordination with regional stakeholders and will be informed by the OAP’s outreach and engagement strategies (described above).

Gaps in Portfolio of Activities Related to Ocean Acidification, Compared to Priorities Outlined in the Strategic Research Plan

Free ocean CO2 experiments and field mesocosm facilities – Free ocean CO2 experiments or field mesocosm facilities could be developed and used as part of OAP’s competitive funding opportunities, as long as the projects making use of them demonstrate National Environmental Policy Act compliance and the proposed research offers valuable and necessary insights that support NOAA’s mission and promotes the research goals outlined within the Strategic Research Plan.

Carbonate dissolution and bioerosion – Bioerosion rates are likely to change under ocean acidification due to changes in seawater chemistry and biological communities.  Currently, NOAA monitors bioerosion rates in coral reefs, though it would be appropriate to monitor bioerosion in other ecosystems where bioerosion is an important contributor to the carbonate mass balance of the system, such as oyster reefs. While NOAA would be eager to adopt monitoring techniques on carbonate dissolution and bioerosion as part of its portfolio, the methods for doing so remain crude and poorly developed.

Observations in non-US, ocean-acidification hot spots – NOAA currently has limited resources to invest on monitoring outside of United States territorial or coastal waters. The open ocean is largely unmonitored for ocean acidification, including some global ‘hot spots’, such as the Arctic, Southern, and Indian Oceans. Limited ocean observations of these areas are provided through NOAA Climate Program Office investments and the efforts of other nations.

Biogeochemical proxies – Extending contemporary time-series obtained through NOAA observing efforts back through time by means of reliable proxies is a fruitful avenue of research. While NOAA’s National Climate Data Center currently archives a number of paleoclimatology datasets, including coral cores and an extensive calcium carbonate housing data from 295 marine sediment cores, these datasets have not been widely applied to ocean acidification. Furthermore, the sustained ocean acidification monitoring time-series provide a valuable opportunity for researchers to develop calibration and validation studies of paleo-ecological and geochemical proxy techniques.

Untapped Opportunities Inside of Agency for Projects Related to Ocean Acidification

The NOAA OAP actively seeks out and promotes partnerships across the agency to both leverage resources and solicit diverse input to prioritization exercises on ocean acidification research. This intra- agency outreach allows the OAP to better meet NOAA’s mission and align NOAA ocean acidification activities with FOARAM Act requirements. Through NOAA’s internal Ocean Acidification Working Group, the OAP receives regular updates from across the NOAA organization on on-going and planned efforts relevant to ocean acidification. The OAP jointly funds a number of ocean acidification-related projects with other NOAA programs, including the Climate Program Office, NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System, Coral Reef Conservation Program, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and NOAA Cooperative Institutes. Additionally, all resources directed to fund ocean acidification activities inside of NOAA are significantly leveraged by NOAA laboratories and science centers. In future years, the OAP will consider approaches to significantly bolster these existing partnerships within the agency, especially with the National Marine Fisheries Service, and expand the portfolio of ocean acidification-related partnerships to include the National Sea Grant College Program and the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.  The OAP will also seek out coordination of ocean acidification monitoring efforts to include the merging of in situ observations with existing satellite observations (e.g., sea surface salinity, sea surface temperature, ocean color).

Ideas for How Agency Could Work with other Federal Agencies on Activities Related to Ocean Acidification

Optimization of existing/planned fleet schedules – While NOAA works internally to coordinate and leverage fleet activities and capitalize on existing sustained fleet survey efforts, coordinating some of NOAA’s fleet activities with those outside of NOAA could better serve the ocean acidification-related needs of multiple agencies. For example, NOAA is working to establish coastal ocean acidification surveys along all United States coastal and coral reef systems that occur in each region every three years. The current suite of geochemical observations could be extended to include ocean color or non- carbonate chemical measures if partnering agencies were able to contribute to the science cost of these missions. Conversely, with proper coordination, NOAA could piggy-back on other agencies’ platforms to carry out or supplement NOAA survey requirements relevant to ocean acidification.

Coordinate monitoring efforts – One of NOAA’s strengths is its ability to conduct sustained monitoring of ocean conditions and living marine resources. NOAA has established a sustained network for monitoring the progression and extent of ocean acidification and is starting to monitor for the impacts                       of ocean acidification on some species in certain locations (e.g., pteropods along United States West Coast).  NOAA’s monitoring network, however, is limited in its spatial and temporal scope and capacity for ecological monitoring beyond coral reefs.  NOAA welcomes coordination with other Federal agencies on the development of a monitoring system for ocean acidification. Such coordination could leverage the ocean acidification monitoring activities of all agencies and aid in the development of a comprehensive and efficient monitoring network for ocean acidification and its impacts.

Joint funding calls – One important way that Federal agencies can work together on ocean acidification is joint funding calls. Joint funding calls permit two or more agencies to design requests for proposals that address the needs of all agencies involved, and provide a mechanism to leverage Federal funding. The National Oceanographic Partnership Program provides a valuable mechanism through which the IWG-OA can foster coordinated Federal funding opportunities targeting mutually agreed upon areas of ocean acidification research.

Areas Where Agency Mission is Being Inhibited by Knowledge Gaps that Fall out of Agency’s Purview

These areas are primarily addressed in the below sections.  Of special note, however, may be refining the delineation between various agencies roles and responsibility specific to coastal acidification.

Response of non-calcifying species to ocean acidification – NOAA is advancing and will continue to advance research to quantify the physiological, developmental, and genetic responses of non-calcifying species to ocean acidification. Most of this research currently focuses on early life stages of finfish. While some research has been conducted at the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center on phytoplankton and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center on squid, no research is planned for examining the response of bacteria, fungi, macroalgae, seagrasses, tunicates, or jellies to ocean acidification. Research projects to examine the response of these organisms could be solicited and supported through a competitive proposal and review process, and potentially including a focus on commercially and culturally important species.

Marine calcifying processes – While NOAA is actively engaged in quantifying changes in physiological, developmental, and genetic processes governing marine calcification, a fully mechanistic understanding of biocalcification largely remains the research purview of NSF. As such, NOAA would strongly encourage NSF to remain supportive of high-quality research proposals which advance understanding of this topic.

Non-carbonate geochemical cycles – While many of NOAA’s ocean observing assets currently deployed and envisioned in future years could provide valuable platforms for advancing understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification to the broader geochemical cycle, NOAA does not have explicit plans to develop its ocean observing capacities much beyond carbonate chemistry.  NOAA would welcome interagency partnerships to leverage ocean observing systems with capabilities to examine how ocean acidification may alter the nitrogen, iron, phosphorous, silicate, oxygen, and sulfur cycles, particularly in cases where changes in the cycles could impact marine resources.

Closing uncertainties related to the carbon chemistry system and biomineral thermodynamics/kinetics – Foundational work necessary for calculating ocean carbon chemistry parameters and understanding the kinetics of calcium carbonate produced by marine organisms remains undone. For example, the equations used to characterize the carbon chemistry of low salinity waters with high biological activity need to be improved for us to properly study and understand acidification in coastal regions.  This fundamental science largely falls outside of the purview of NOAA’s mission, and it is critical that other agencies better suited towards addressing these critical gaps pick up the charge.

Near-future Activities Related to Ocean Acidification (Planned within the Next 2 Years) 

NOAA near-future ocean acidification activities are categorized as those that could occur under OAP funding at the current level and new activities that could occur under higher funding levels.  At higher funding levels, NOAA will improve understanding of progression of ocean acidification in coastal and marine environments and the impacts of ocean acidification on marine resources and will develop tools and adaptive strategies for resource managers, affected industries, and stakeholders.   

Existing Activities that will Continue under the Current Funding Level 

Research to understand the implications of ocean acidification – NOAA supports five experimental facilities to study the response of species to ocean acidification (Highlands, New Jersey; Kodiak, Alaska; Mukilteo and Manchester, Washington; Newport, Oregon).  Research at these facilities targets a range of shellfish, finfish, zooplankton, and phytoplankton species, all of which are economically or ecologically important.  NOAA also engages in vulnerability analyses of select regions to ocean acidification and supports meta-analysis work that builds understanding of patterns in species-response to ocean acidification. 

Monitoring of ocean chemistry and biological effects – NOAA’s ocean acidification monitoring portfolio comprises a suite of observations ranging from repeated, large-scale, synoptic surveys of the major ocean basins to sustained, fixed, time-series stations.  A variety of assets are used for monitoring, including fixed site observing platforms (e.g., moorings and piers), ships of opportunity, dedicated geochemical cruises, remote sensing, wave gliders, and profiling floats.  NOAA monitors the status and trends of United States coral reef ecosystems, assessing parameters related to both carbonate chemistry and ecology at one site in the Pacific Ocean basin and two in the Atlantic Ocean basin.  NOAA has also added carbon chemistry measurements to time series measurements of zooplankton in both the north Pacific and the north Atlantic Oceans.  

Modeling to predict changes in the ocean carbon cycle and response of marine ecosystems and organisms – NOAA supports a number of regional modeling exercises on ocean carbon chemistry in the Greater Caribbean region and the California Current.  NOAA also models how ocean acidification may affect coastal and marine ecosystems and living marine resources in the north Pacific and north Atlantic Oceans and compares the potential impacts of ocean acidification to the potential impacts of climate change and human uses of the marine environment.  Ongoing research in NOAA uses advanced global earth system models to explore the global and regional historical and projected future expression of ocean acidification, incorporating emerging scientific understanding of the mechanisms, impacts, and feedbacks of ocean acidification in ocean biogeochemistry and marine ecosystems.  Quantifying past and future ocean carbon uptake associated with ocean acidification is an important part of NOAA's efforts to understand and project future climate, information that informs overall environmental stewardship. 

Technology development and quality assurance – NOAA’s ocean acidification-related technology activities focus on the development of observing gliders and a dissolved inorganic carbon sensor and on methods for determining variation in the progression of ocean acidification and ecosystem response in coral reefs.  NOAA is also investing in development of easy-to-use, low-cost, shore-based monitoring systems that are being tested in partnership with the oyster industry on the United States West and East Coasts and Alaska as systems useful for allowing industry to adapt to ocean acidification.  Additionally, NOAA focuses on development of laboratory systems to study species response to ocean acidification and alternatives for optimizing carbon chemistry measurements in these systems. 

Assessment of socioeconomic impacts and adaptive strategies to conserve marine organisms and marine ecosystems – NOAA’s ocean acidification-related socio-economic work focuses on the impacts of ocean acidification on fisheries and fishery-based economies.  These projects use food web or population models (sometimes linked to economic models) to explore the potential changes in abundance, productivity, and distribution of living marine resources; alternatives for managing living marine resources under acidified conditions; and potential impacts of ocean acidification on human socioeconomic systems.  

Education, outreach, and engagement strategy on ocean acidification – NOAA released an Ocean Acidification Education Implementation Plan in September 2014.  To fulfill goal 1 of the Plan, NOAA is conducting a national needs assessment of ocean acidification education and communication providers to determine effective messages and resources, and identify challenges, lessons learned, gaps, and needs. NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries and Ocean Acidification Program also co-host a national webinar series called Sharing Ocean Acidification Resources for Communicators and Educators, which provides tools to formal and informal educators and stakeholders across the country to promote a more integrated and effective ocean acidification education community. NOAA works with a number of experiential learning facilities, such as the Seattle Aquarium in Washington and the Exploratorium in California, to educate the public about ocean acidification and its impacts, and has hosted workshops to facilitate these educational efforts.  NOAA staff participates in efforts of local, state, tribal, and regional policy makers, managers, and stakeholders to educate and inform decision makers about ocean acidification science (e.g., Washington Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification).  NOAA is heavily involved in emerging regional ocean acidification collaboratives or networks such as the California Current Acidification Network, Northeast Coastal Acidification Network, and Southeast Ocean and Coastal Acidification Network.  NOAA develops a variety of educational and outreach resources, including outreach kits with lesson plans and websites with summaries and explanations of ocean acidification, ocean acidification-related science efforts, and potential impacts on living marine resources internationally, nationally, and regionally.  NOAA also trains many undergraduate students in ocean acidification research methodologies through the NOAA Hollings Scholar Program and other internship programs.   

Data management and synthesis – NOAA provides dedicated, long-term, archival online data discovery and access for a diverse range of OA data from multi-disciplinary field observations, laboratory experiments, and modeling exercises for both NOAA and interagency OA data partners. NOAA developed a metadata content standard that is capable of accommodating OA data from moorings, research cruises, models, and laboratory or mesocosm studies on species’ response to OA. With the metadata template, NOAA has established metadata display formats that can best serve information about OA data sets to data users. An OA data search portal was launched in 2015 to allow users to discover and access OA data sets with ease. NOAA is also investing in development of an online OA data submission interface that will make it easier for users to submit OA data. NOAA supports OA data management through the development of global synthesis products. Over the last year, NOAA authors published their first synthesis effort on the global distribution of aragonite saturation state. A similar effort on the global pH distribution is under development.  

New Activities under Higher Funding Levels 

Enhanced U.S. coastal ocean acidification observing system – Improved understanding of coastal ocean acidification processes requires strategic coordination of observing infrastructure and chemical, physical, and ecological process monitoring.  Development of regional observing networks (e.g., Puget Sound, Gulf of Maine, select Pacific islands, Chesapeake Bay, United States Southeast Coast including Caribbean coral reefs, and Gulf of Mexico including the Flower Garden Banks) would be informed through competitive projects designed to optimize observing assets with respect to improved skill and cost efficiency.  These studies would guide the development of an integrated enterprise of multiplatform observing and coupled ecological-process monitoring necessary to track carbon cycle dynamics and associated ecosystem response. 

National Coral Reef Monitoring Program – The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program has initiated implementation of the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program (NCRMP), which will provide a consistent flow of information about the status and trends of: environmental conditions at United States coral reefs, living coral reef resources, and the people and processes that interact with coral reef ecosystems.  The NCRMP coordinates a NOAA-wide, long-term approach to monitor coral reef ecosystems, including a partnership with NOAA’s OAP to support carbonate chemistry measurements in coral reef areas. Monitoring of the ecological responses of coral reef ecosystems to ocean acidification (e.g., changes to coral reef carbonate budgets, coral growth rates, bioerosion, and framework integrity) are made possible through OAP funding of targeted benthic community characterization, fine-scale rugosity assessments (e.g., how wrinkled structures are), indices of biodiversity (including that of cryptic species), coral coring, and crustose coralline algae recruitment and accretion rate monitoring. The NCRMP calls for establishing 6 sentinel sites across the United States coral reef ecosystems in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Three such sites have been established (Puerto Rico, Florida, and Hawaii), and in coming years, at least two additional sites would be established, including the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Understanding species and ecosystem response to ocean acidification – To address information gaps on the impact of ocean acidification on species of high economic vulnerability, the OAP would direct funding through regional requests for proposals, likely through regional Sea Grant programs.  New funding would be directed towards enhancing the NOAA experimental systems used to study species response to ocean acidification with new control and chemistry monitoring technologies.  The OAP would also consider expanding the types of species response metrics that can be measured during experiments (e.g., genomics, neurophysiology).   

Far-future Activities Related to Ocean Acidification (Planned within the Next 3-5 Years) 

NOAA far-future ocean acidification activities are categorized as those that could occur under OAP funding at the current level and new activities that could occur under higher funding levels.   

Existing Activities that will Continue under the Current Funding Level 

Assure continuity of core existing and sustained ocean acidification activities – The OAP’s leveraging of other NOAA funds to support its sustained activities leaves the OAP dependent on the funding for and strategic direction of the participating NOAA labs and science centers.  Because the OAP aims to establish long-term time-series related to ocean acidification, the OAP will work closely with participating NOAA labs and science centers to maintain leverage support, which includes dedicated personnel to carry-out ocean acidification-related projects. 

Enhance existing ocean acidification observational and experimental technologies – The OAP will adopt new but demonstrated observing technologies to improve the quality of ocean acidification data collected and reduce costs.  

Foster integration of biological studies and geochemical monitoring – The OAP supports a diverse portfolio of ocean acidification activities ranging from direct geochemical observations at sea to manipulative controlled experiments in the laboratory.  The OAP will foster the integration of these interdisciplinary efforts to improve understanding of the progression and consequences of ocean acidification.  Through NCRMP monitoring and development of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network strategy, the OAP already is working to tightly link geochemical observations with ecological response monitoring.  Increasingly, the OAP will work to define gaps in ocean acidification observing requirements defined by ocean acidification species response studies and conversely assure that geochemical data inform ocean acidification biological response studies.  

Ocean acidification capacity building – The OAP will strengthen efforts to foster international, national, tribal, regional, state, and local engagement on ocean acidification, such as the California Current Acidification Network, Northeast Coast Acidification Network, Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network, and Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center.  A key part of strengthening engagement efforts is funding capacity-building projects (e.g., workshops, journal special issues, and website development).  

New Activities under Higher Funding Levels  

Regional coastal ocean acidification models – NOAA would advance the development of coastal ocean acidification models that are regionally optimized for characterizing carbonate chemistry dynamics.  To do so, OAP would develop competitive Federal funding opportunities to upgrade existing models of carbon chemistry.  These models would provide information relevant to coastal management, such as nutrient or local atmospheric inputs into coastal systems and how these inputs affect local acidification at a range of spatial and temporal scales.  The models would rely heavily on data collected by the enhanced coastal observing system (described above) for validation. 

Regional ocean acidification synthesis products for outreach – Data products developed for specific user types (e.g., resource managers and shellfish hatchery operators) would integrate ocean acidification data to clearly communicate how ocean acidification is affecting coastal resources, ecosystems, and human communities.  Products would include:  1) near real-time maps of ocean chemistry for regions identified as high priority for living marine resources and communities dependent on these resources; 2) short- and long-term forecasts of ocean chemistry (e.g., early warnings for shellfish growers); and 3) visualizations pertinent to the coastal resources (e.g., fisheries, protected habitats, and coral reefs) potentially threatened by ocean acidification.  These products will be developed in close coordination with regional stakeholders and will be informed by the OAP’s outreach and engagement strategies (described above). 

Gaps in Portfolio of Activities Related to Ocean Acidification, Compared to Priorities Outlined in the Strategic Research Plan 

Free ocean CO2 experiments and field mesocosm facilities – Free ocean CO2 experiments or field mesocosm facilities could be developed and used as part of OAP’s competitive funding opportunities, as long as the projects making use of them demonstrate National Environmental Policy Act compliance and the proposed research offers valuable and necessary insights that support NOAA’s mission and promotes the research goals outlined within the Strategic Research Plan. 

Carbonate dissolution and bioerosion – Bioerosion rates are likely to change under ocean acidification due to changes in seawater chemistry and biological communities.  Currently, NOAA monitors bioerosion rates in coral reefs, though it would be appropriate to monitor bioerosion in other ecosystems where bioerosion is an important contributor to the carbonate mass balance of the system, such as oyster reefs.  While NOAA would be eager to adopt monitoring techniques on carbonate dissolution and bioerosion as part of its portfolio, the methods for doing so remain crude and poorly developed. 

Observations in non-US, ocean-acidification hot spots – NOAA currently has limited resources to invest on monitoring outside of United States territorial or coastal waters.  The open ocean is largely unmonitored for ocean acidification, including some global ‘hot spots’, such as the Arctic, Southern, and Indian Oceans.  Limited ocean observations of these areas are provided through NOAA Climate Program Office investments and the efforts of other nations.  

Biogeochemical proxies – Extending contemporary time-series obtained through NOAA observing efforts back through time by means of reliable proxies is a fruitful avenue of research.  While NOAA’s National Climate Data Center currently archives a number of paleoclimatology datasets, including coral cores and an extensive calcium carbonate housing data from 295 marine sediment cores, these datasets have not been widely applied to ocean acidification.  Furthermore, the sustained ocean acidification monitoring time-series provide a valuable opportunity for researchers to develop calibration and validation studies of paleo-ecological and geochemical proxy techniques. 

Untapped Opportunities Inside of Agency for Projects Related to Ocean Acidification  

The NOAA OAP actively seeks out and promotes partnerships across the agency to both leverage resources and solicit diverse input to prioritization exercises on ocean acidification research.  This intraagency outreach allows the OAP to better meet NOAA’s mission and align NOAA ocean acidification activities with FOARAM Act requirements.  Through NOAA’s internal Ocean Acidification Working Group, the OAP receives regular updates from across the NOAA organization on on-going and planned efforts relevant to ocean acidification.  The OAP jointly funds a number of ocean acidification-related projects with other NOAA programs, including the Climate Program Office, NOAA Integrated Ocean Observing System, Coral Reef Conservation Program, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and NOAA Cooperative Institutes.  Additionally, all resources directed to fund ocean acidification activities inside of NOAA are significantly leveraged by NOAA laboratories and science centers.  In future years, the OAP will consider approaches to significantly bolster these existing partnerships within the agency, especially with the National Marine Fisheries Service, and expand the portfolio of ocean acidification-related partnerships to include the National Sea Grant College Program and the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.  The OAP will also seek out coordination of ocean acidification monitoring efforts to include the merging of in situ observations with existing satellite observations (e.g., sea surface salinity, sea surface temperature, ocean color). 

Ideas for How Agency Could Work with other Federal Agencies on Activities Related to Ocean Acidification 

Optimization of existing/planned fleet schedules – While NOAA works internally to coordinate and leverage fleet activities and capitalize on existing sustained fleet survey efforts, coordinating some of NOAA’s fleet activities with those outside of NOAA could better serve the ocean acidification-related needs of multiple agencies.  For example, NOAA is working to establish coastal ocean acidification surveys along all United States coastal and coral reef systems that occur in each region every three years.  The current suite of geochemical observations could be extended to include ocean color or noncarbonate chemical measures if partnering agencies were able to contribute to the science cost of these missions.  Conversely, with proper coordination, NOAA could piggy-back on other agencies’ platforms to carry out or supplement NOAA survey requirements relevant to ocean acidification. 

Coordinate monitoring efforts – One of NOAA’s strengths is its ability to conduct sustained monitoring of ocean conditions and living marine resources.  NOAA has established a sustained network for monitoring the progression and extent of ocean acidification and is starting to monitor for the impacts of ocean acidification on some species in certain locations (e.g., pteropods along United States West Coast).  NOAA’s monitoring network, however, is limited in its spatial and temporal scope and capacity for ecological monitoring beyond coral reefs.  NOAA welcomes coordination with other Federal agencies on the development of a monitoring system for ocean acidification.  Such coordination could leverage the ocean acidification monitoring activities of all agencies and aid in the development of a comprehensive and efficient monitoring network for ocean acidification and its impacts. 

Joint funding calls – One important way that Federal agencies can work together on ocean acidification is joint funding calls.  Joint funding calls permit two or more agencies to design requests for proposals that address the needs of all agencies involved, and provide a mechanism to leverage Federal funding. The National Oceanographic Partnership Program provides a valuable mechanism through which the IWG-OA can foster coordinated Federal funding opportunities targeting mutually agreed upon areas of ocean acidification research.    

Areas Where Agency Mission is Being Inhibited by Knowledge Gaps that Fall out of Agency’s Purview 

These areas are primarily addressed in the below sections.  Of special note, however, may be refining the delineation between various agencies roles and responsibility specific to coastal acidification.   

Response of non-calcifying species to ocean acidification – NOAA is advancing and will continue to advance research to quantify the physiological, developmental, and genetic responses of non-calcifying species to ocean acidification.  Most of this research currently focuses on early life stages of finfish.  While some research has been conducted at the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center on phytoplankton and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center on squid, no research is planned for examining the response of bacteria, fungi, macroalgae, seagrasses, tunicates, or jellies to ocean acidification.  Research projects to examine the response of these organisms could be solicited and supported through a competitive proposal and review process, and potentially including a focus on commercially and culturally important species.  

Marine calcifying processes – While NOAA is actively engaged in quantifying changes in physiological, developmental, and genetic processes governing marine calcification, a fully mechanistic understanding of biocalcification largely remains the research purview of NSF.  As such, NOAA would strongly encourage NSF to remain supportive of high-quality research proposals which advance understanding of this topic. 

Non-carbonate geochemical cycles – While many of NOAA’s ocean observing assets currently deployed and envisioned in future years could provide valuable platforms for advancing understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification to the broader geochemical cycle, NOAA does not have explicit plans to develop its ocean observing capacities much beyond carbonate chemistry.  NOAA would welcome interagency partnerships to leverage ocean observing systems with capabilities to examine how ocean acidification may alter the nitrogen, iron, phosphorous, silicate, oxygen, and sulfur cycles, particularly in cases where changes in the cycles could impact marine resources. 

Closing uncertainties related to the carbon chemistry system and biomineral thermodynamics/kinetics – Foundational work necessary for calculating ocean carbon chemistry parameters and understanding the kinetics of calcium carbonate produced by marine organisms remains undone.  For example, the equations used to characterize the carbon chemistry of low salinity waters with high biological activity need to be improved for us to properly study and understand acidification in coastal regions.  This fundamental science largely falls outside of the purview of NOAA’s mission, and it is critical that other agencies better suited towards addressing these critical gaps pick up the charge. 

AGENCY ACTIVITIES

SUMMARY TABLES

BY INDIVIDUAL AGENCY:

NOAA

National Science Foundation

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     US Department of State     

   Nasa

USFWS

  

    Boemre     

USGS

USFWS

    USFWS