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.
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.
Ocean acidification (OA) is already harming shellfish species in the Pacific Northwest, a global hotspot of OA. While OA poses a threat to regional communities, economies, and cultures that rely on shellfish, identified gaps remain in adaptive capacity and vulnerability of several stakeholders. This project will address these gaps by extending long-standing collaborative OA vulnerability research with shellfish growers to include other shellfish users (e.g. port towns, Native American tribes and shellfish sector employees). The project includes five objectives: 1) Map variations in shellfisheries’ exposure to OA and identify those that are most sensitive, 2) quantify production losses from OA and costs of investment in adaptation 3) Identify potential pathways for adaptation, 4) identify key technological, institutional, legislative, financial and cultural barriers to OA adaptation, 5) evaluate the cost of potential adaptation strategies, and develop behavioral models to predict the likelihood of users adopting specific adaptation strategies. The research is designed to identify key vulnerabilities, determine the cost of OA to Pacific Northwest shellfish stakeholders, and to model adaptation pathways for maximizing resilience to OA. The adaptation framework developed here will be replicable in other shellfisheries yet to experience OA impacts.
The Olympic Coast, located in the Pacific Northwest U.S., stands as a region already experiencing effects of ocean acidification (OA). This poses risks to marine resources important to the public, especially local Native American tribes who are rooted in this place and depend on marine treaty-protected resources. This project brings together original social science research, synthesis of existing chemical and biological data from open ocean to intertidal areas, and model projections, to assess current and projected Olympic Coast vulnerabilities associated with OA. This critical research aims to increase the tribes’ ability to prepare for and respond to OA through respective community-driven strategies. By constructing a comprehensive, place-based approach to assess OA vulnerability, decision-makers in the Pacific Northwest will be better able to anticipate, evaluate and manage societal risks and impacts of OA. This collaborative project is developed in partnership with tribal co-investigators and regional resource managers from start to finish and is rooted in a focus on local priorities for social, cultural, and ecological health and adaptive capacity.