NOAA's Ocean Acidification Program supports research that focuses on economically and ecologically important marine species. Research of survival, growth, and physiology of marine organisms can be used to explore how aquaculture, wild fisheries, and food webs may change as ocean chemistry changes.
A number of NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Science Centers have state-of-the-art experimental facilities to study the response of marine organisms to the chemistry conditions expected with ocean acidification.
The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has facilities at its Sandy Hook, NJ and Milford, CT laboratories; the Alaska Fisheries Science Centers at its Newport, OR and Kodiak, AK laboratories; and the Northwest Fisheries Science Center at its Mukilteo and Manchester, WA laboratories. All facilities can tightly control carbon dioxide and temperature. The Northwest Fisheries Science Center can also control oxygen, and can create variable treatment conditions for carbon dioxide, temperature, and oxygen. These facilities include equipment for seawater carbon chemistry analysis, and all use standard operating procedures for analyzing carbonate chemistry to identify the treatment conditions used in experiments.
Both deep sea and shallow reef-building corals have calcium carbonate skeletons. As our oceans become more acidic, carbonate ions, which are an important part of calcium carbonate structures, such as these coral skeletons, become relatively less abundant. Decreases in seawater carbonate ion concentration can make building and maintaining calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying marine organisms such as coral.
Increased levels of carbon dioxide in our ocean can have a wide variety of impacts on fish, including altering behavior, otolith (a fish's ear bone) formation, and young fish's growth. Find out more about what scientists are learning about ocean acidification impacts on fish like rockfish, scup, summer flounder, and walleye pollock.
Shellfish, such as oyster, clams, crabs and scallop, provide food for marine life and for people, too. Shellfish make their shells or carapaces from calcium carbonate, which contains carbonate ion as a building block. The decreases in seawater carbonate ion concentration expected with ocean acidification can make building and maintaining calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying marine organisms like shellfish. This may impact their survival, growth, and physiology, and, thus, the food webs and economies that depend on them.
Plankton are tiny plants and animals that many marine organisms, ranging from salmon to whales, rely on for nutrition. Some plankton have calcium carbonate structures, which are built from carbonate ions. Carbonate ions become relatively less abundant as the oceans become more acidic. Decreases in seawater carbonate ions can make building and maintaining shells and other calcium carbonate structures difficult for calcifying marine organisms such as plankton. Changes to the survival, growth, and physiology of plankton can have impacts throughout the food web.
NOAA invests $18.9M in a coordinated effort to maximize advances in harmful algal bloom (HAB) mitigation, monitoring and forecasting. Four of new research awards support ($1.5M) funded in partnership by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and NOAA’s Ocean Acidification program will determine interactive effects of HABs and ocean acidification. Other projects supported through this effort will establish a U.S. Harmful Algal Bloom Control Incubator, enhance detection of HAB toxins and improve forecasts and investigate the socioeconomic impacts of HABs. Read more
University of Michigan, University of Minnesota Duluth, Oberlin College, University of Kentucky, and University of Toledo received $281,975 to improve our understanding of the synergistic impacts of acidification, temperature, total alkalinity, and nutrients on toxic cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Bowdoin College, and NERACOOS received $499,999 to address gaps in understanding relationships between harmful algal bloom behavior and ocean acidification in the northeast Atlantic, especially where it is associated with coastal eutrophication and hypoxia.
Stony Brook University, Adelphi University, and St. Joseph's College received $364,265 to establish a comprehensive understanding of how three of the most prominent HABs on the US east coast respond to ocean acidification, and how their co-occurrence will economically impact fisheries and shellfisheries.
Northwest Indian College, San Francisco State University, and University of Washington received $355,281 to understand the current relationships between ocean acidification and harmful algal bloom interactions in the Salish Sea, and to quantify how ocean acidification influences growth and toxicity.
Autonomous glider collects information to track harmful algal blooms and water quality. Credit: Ben Yair Raanan, MBARI
Evaluation of OA impacts to plankton and fish distributions in the Gulf of Mexico during GOMECC-4 with a focus on HAB-interactions
Why we care
Ocean change in the Gulf of Mexico, including acidification and eutrophication, can impact biodiversity and the flow of energy through ecosystems from microscopic phytoplankton to higher trophic levels like fish. These processes can impact the health of fisheries and coastal ecosystems. This project collects information to evaluate the links between ocean conditions and important species in the Gulf of Mexico.
What we are doing
During the 4th Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem and Carbon Cruise (GOMECC-4), scientists collect samples of phytoplankton, zooplankton, and ichthyoplankton to characterize fish distribution and abundance, larval fish condition and diet, microplastic abundance, and harmful algal bloom species. These collections coincide with measurements of acidification, oxygen, and eutrophication to make connections between ocean chemistry and biology.
Benefits of our work
This project will help characterize how changes in ocean conditions interact with biological processes like harmful algal bloom formation and ecosystem productivity that are important to local fisheries and stakeholders.