Sustained Observations of Ocean Acidification in Alaska Coastal Seas
Why we care
Coastal regions around Alaska experience some of the most rapid and extensive progressions of ocean acidification (OA) in the United States. Assessments indicate that Alaska coastal communities have a varying degree of vulnerability to OA ranging from moderate to severe. Economically vital fishing regions are the most vulnerable. Sustained monitoring is critical to track the extent and impact of ocean acidification in habitats that are home to sensitive species such as red king crab in the Bering Sea.
What we are doing
This project “rethinks” the coastal Alaskan OA monitoring effort (initiated in 2015) by sampling Alaska waters directly through the annual population survey program of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC). This new vision doubles the spatial footprint of Alaska OA observations, increases the time resolution of these observations, and complements shipboard surveys in Alaska. Carbonate chemistry samples will be combined with fisheries population surveys to assess OA in the habitats of keystone organisms in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
Benefits of our work
This project enhances our understanding of how the accumulation of anthropogenic carbon dioxide affects the seasonal progression of carbonate carbonate chemistry variables in the Gulf of Alaska. The observations can also be used to validate new OA models developed for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Additionally, it can be applied to bioeconomic forecast models of crab and walleye pollock providing insight on how to adapt and build resilience to impacted industries and communities.
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).