Evaluating ocean acidification vulnerability and interactions among traditional and coastal Alaska industries
Why we care
Many marine species affected by ocean acidification (OA) contribute to Alaska’s highly productive commercial fisheries and traditional subsistence ways of life. Concern exists that acidification will cause ecosystem-level shifts, diminishing the overall economic value of commercial fisheries and reducing food security for communities relying on subsistence harvests.
What we are doing
This project addresses acidification threats in south-central and southeast Alaska. It involves the development of decision support tools incorporating acidification risks into localized socio-ecological systems. The tools are based on a network of models representing acidification hazards, bio-ecological systems, and socioeconomic systems linked to adaptive actions.
Benefits of our work
This project is an exchange of knowledge between scientists, policy makers, and community stakeholders. The network of models creates decision support tools responsive to stakeholder concerns that reflect regional variation in community priorities and their ecological social and management context. The project synthesizes the best available science to determine the risks posed by ocean acidification.
Using next-generation sequencing techniques to assess adaptive capacity and illuminate mechanisms underlying the effects of high pCO2 on Alaskan crab and fish species
Why we care
Many economically important crab and fish species are negatively affected by exposure to ocean acidification predicted to occur throughout their ranges in the coming decades. Ocean acidification results in decreased growth, altered development, weaker exoskeletons, increased energy outputs, altered immune systems, altered behavior, and increased mortality in some of these species. Other stressors such as increased temperature can have interactive negative effects when combined with ocean acidification. Traditional laboratory experiments cannot duplicate the gradual changes that will affect species populations over multiple life-history stages and generations, so using next-generation genetic approaches provide insight into effects beyond specific life stages.
What we are doing
This study will use next-generation sequencing techniques to identify specific alterations in the molecular, metabolic, and physiological pathways of individuals exposed to ocean acidification. This is a way to identify pathways that impart tolerance to ocean acidification and warming. This project determines the effect of ocean acidification and thermal stress on gene expression in Pacific cod larvae and juvenile Tanner crab and identifies genetic markers indicating ocean acidification resilience.
Benefits of our work
Investigators will identify the cellular pathways that impart tolerance to ocean acidification. By comparing individuals that demonstrate low sensitivity to ocean acidification and with the general population, we enhance the ability to predict how adaptation will alter the species’ response to future ocean conditions. This research will inform the fishing industry and coastal, fisheries-dependent Alaskan communities about potential effects of ocean change on commercially important species. Outcomes can be used to drive future responses and adaptations in these industries regarding affected fisheries.
Deep-sea corals are widespread throughout Alaska, including the continental shelf and upper slope of the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, the eastern Bering Sea, and extending as far north as the Beaufort Sea. Decreases in oceanic pH and resulting decreases in calcium carbonate saturation state could have profound effects on corals dependent on the extraction of calcium carbonate from seawater for skeletal building. Corals will be affected differently depending on their skeletal composition (aragonite vs. calcite), geographical location, and depth. The aragonite and calcite saturation horizons are already quite shallow in areas of the North Pacific Ocean and are predicted to become shallower in the near future. The skeletal composition is known for only a few Alaskan coral species and may be composed of aragonite, calcite, high-magnesium calcite, or amorphous carbonate hydroxylapatite. Skeletons composed of high magnesium-calcite are the most soluble and consequently corals with high-magnesium calcite skeletons, particularly those residing at depths deeper than the saturation horizon, are most at risk to decreases in oceanic pH. At the completion of this project we will be able to provide a comprehensive risk assessment for all corals in Alaskan waters.
This OAP project represents the first contribution of OAP to sustained coastal Alaska OA monitoring through three years (2015-2017) of maintenance of two previously established OA mooring sites located in critical fishing areas. In FY2015, It also supported a 19 day OA survey cruise along the continental shelf of the Gulf of Alaska in summer of 2015, designed to fill observing gaps that have made it difficult to quantify the extent of OA events. This support has been critical for continuing OA research in Alaska, as the initial infrastructure funding was not sufficient or intended for long-term operation.
These OAP-sponsored monitoring and observing activities support a number of cross-cutting research efforts. Firstly, the data itself will provide new insights into the seasonal progression of OA events caused by the progressive accumulation of anthropogenic CO2 into the region's coastal seas. The mooring and cruise data can also be used as an early warning system for stakeholders around the state, as well as to provide information for other types of OA research. Other projects within the OAP Alaska Enterprise focus on laboratory based evaluation of the impact of OA on commercially and ecologically important Alaskan species, especially during the vulnerable larval and juvenile life stages. This environmental monitoring informs those studies by describing the intensity, duration, and extent of OA events and providing a baseline for projecting future conditions. Finally, this observational data is used to validate new OA models that are currently being developed for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, and are applied in bio-economic models of crab and pollock abundance forecasts (e.g., Punt et al., 2014; Mathis et al., 2014).