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.
The effects of ocean acidification on marine life have only become widely recognized in the past decade. Now researchers are rapidly expanding the scope of investigations into what falling pH means for ocean ecosystems.
The NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), Climate Program Office and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Science and Technology have established a partnership to advance understanding of climate-related impacts on fish or other species that support economically important fisheries. The goal is to inform sustainable fisheries management and promote resilience of the nation’s fish stocks and fisheries in a changing climate.
For FY17, this OAR/NMFS partnership, through the Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) Program, will continue to take a regional approach to improving the resilience and adaptation of fisheries in a changing climate by soliciting proposals under two competitions. The first competition solicits proposals for projects in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) and the second competition solicits proposals for projects in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem (NESLME). Through this announcement, it is estimated that approximately $2.2 million will be available in FY2017 for new awards pending budget appropriations. For competition I, projects can request up to $700,000 a year for three years, for a total of $2.1 million over three years. For competition II, projects can request up to $500,000 a year for three years for a total of $1.5 million over three years.