PMEL Sustained Ocean Acidification Biogeochemical and Ecological Survey Observations
Why we care
U.S. West coast-wide hydrographic surveys have been conducted intermittently from 2007 to 2017, providing evidence for the geographic extent and severity of ocean acidification in the continental shelf ecosystem. Scientists on the NOAA West Coast Ocean Acidification (WCOA) discovered that the combined effects of anthropogenic and biologically-derived carbon dioxide resulted in significant biological impacts for oyster larvae and pteropods, which are small, ecologically important mollusks for the food web.
What we are doing
This project executes a large-scale survey of ocean acidification carbonate chemistry in the California Current System and continues processing data and publishing scientific papers based on 2016 and 2017 surveys findings. This survey determines the spatial distributions of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved inorganic carbon, total alkalinity, oxygen, nutrients, and biological parameters along the west coast of North America. Survey results will provide the basis for accurate assessments of changing ocean chemistry in the following areas: 1) spatial variability; 2) extent and causes of long-term changes in carbonate system parameters and their impacts on calcifying (shell-building) organisms; and 3) empirical relationships for obtaining high-resolution information on ocean acidification collected on moorings.
Benefits of our work
This project links the combined stressors of increased temperature, acidification, and hypoxia (low oxygen) with effects on marine organisms in the region and identifies spatial variability of acidifying conditions during the spring/summer upwelling season. In addition to scientific partners, this project engages a NOAA Teacher At Sea (TAS) fellow on the cruise to help develop outreach and education on West Coast ocean acidification.
Coastal acidification and its associated co-stressors present a serious and credible threat to the success of both oyster aquaculture and restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. Recent research provides a clearer understanding of the physiological sensitivity of different economically and culturally valuable shellfish species to ocean acidification (OA), but we still lack a basic understanding of how vulnerability differs across the range of shellfish-reliant stakeholders, specifically participants in oyster aquaculture, the growers, watermen and coastal restoration managers. This basic knowledge gap motivates this work, which aims to: (1) assess the vulnerability of the oyster aquaculture industry and oyster restoration to OA and other co-stressors, and (2) produce the information required by regional communities to aid in adaptation to these stressors. In achieving these goals, we will better understand which shellfish stakeholders will be able to successfully adapt, which will seek alternative livelihoods, and what specifically causes the difference between these two disparate outcomes.