NOAA's Ocean Acidification Program supports research focused on economically, ecologically, and culturally important marine species. We can use what we know about survival, growth, and physiology to explore how aquaculture, wild fisheries, and food webs may change as ocean chemistry changes.
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Science Centers have state-of-the-art experimental facilities to study the response of marine life 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. At the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, coral research connects ocean conditions with reef health. 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.
NOAA national laboratories are global leaders for delivering innovative strategies for ocean observations and support tools for managing marine resources.
NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) makes critical observations and conducts groundbreaking research to advance our knowledge of the global ocean and its interactions with the earth, atmosphere, ecosystems, and climate. This includes research, observations, and technology development in support of society's response to urgent challenges with ocean acidification and ocean change. NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) conducts world-class Earth system research, with a focus on the Atlantic Ocean region, to inform: the accurate forecasting of extreme weather and ocean phenomena, the management of marine resources, and an understanding of climate change and associated impacts. AOML improves ocean and weather services including advancing our understanding of ocean and coastal acidification and its potential impacts on coral reef and other ecosystems.
Both deep sea and shallow reef-building corals have calcium carbonate skeletons. As our oceans become more acidic, carbonate ions, which are an important building blocks of calcium carbonate structures like coral skeletons, become relatively less abundant. Decreases in these building blocks make building and maintaining calcium carbonate structures harder 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 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, 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 these building blocks 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.
Assessing ocean acidification as a driver for enhanced metals uptake by Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis): implications for aquaculture and seafood safety
Why we care
Ocean acidification causes changes in the chemistry of stressors such as metals and may affect both the susceptibility of these animals to the contaminants as well as the toxicity. This is especially important for animals like blue mussels and other economically important shellfish that accumulate toxins in their bodies. Metal accumulation as a co-stressor of ocean acidification is not well documented for northeastern U.S. shellfish aquaculture species and better understanding these relationships supports seafood safety.
What we are doing
This work investigates the impacts of metal speciation (forms) on blue mussels under acidified conditions in both field and laboratory experiments. Scientists will first study uptake rates of these metals by blue mussels and then see how changing conditions affects their accumulation and toxicity. Comparing what they learn in the lab to what occurs in the field where these mussels are farmed, helps support decisions for seafood safety and industry best practices.
Benefits of our work
Coastal managers and aquaculturists can use these results that provide the societal benefits of better informed siting of aquaculture and safer seafood.
The U.S. Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem, supports some of the nation’s most economically valuable coastal fisheries, yet most of this revenue comes from shellfish that are sensitive to ocean acidification (OA). Furthermore, the weakly buffered northern region of this area is expected to have greater susceptibility to OA. Existing OA observations in the NES do not sample at the time, space, and depth scales needed to capture the physical, biological, and chemical processes occurring in this dynamic coastal shelf region. Specific to inorganic carbon and OA, the data available in the region has not been leveraged to conduct a comprehensive regional-scale analysis that would increase the ability to understand and model seasonal-scale, spatial-scale, and subsurface carbonate chemistry dynamics, variability, and drivers in the NES. This project optimizes the NES OA observation network encompassing the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Maine regions by adding seasonal deployments of underwater gliders equipped with transformative, newly developed and tested deep ISFET-based pH sensors and additional sensors (measuring temperature, salinity for total alkalinity and aragonite saturation [ΩArag] estimation, oxygen, and chlorophyll), optimizing existing regional sampling to enhance carbonate chemistry measurements in several key locations, and compiling and integrating existing OA assets. The researchers will apply these data to an existing NES ocean ecosystem/biogeochemical (BGC) model that resolves carbonate chemistry and its variability.
Over the past 15 years, waters in the Gulf of Maine have taken up
CO2at a rate significantly slower than that observed in the open oceans due to a combination of
the extreme warming experienced in the region and an increased presence of well-buffered Gulf
Stream water. The reduced uptake of CO2 by the shelves could
also alter local acidification rate, which differ from the global rates. The intrusion of
anthropogenic CO2is not the only mechanism that can reduce Ωarag within coastal surface waters.
Local processes like freshwater delivery, eutrophication, water column metabolism, and
sediment interactions that drive variability on regional scales can also modify spatial variability
in Ωarag. Global projections cannot resolve these local processes with resolution of a degree
or more. Some high-resolution global projections have been developed which perform well in
some coastal settings . However, these simulations do not include regional
biogeochemical processes described above which can amplify or dampen these global changes,
particularly in coastal shelf regions. Our hypothesis is that a regionally downscaled projection
for the east coast of the US can be used to evaluate the ability of the existing observational
network to detect changes in ocean acidification relevant stressors for scallops and propose a
process-based strategy for the network moving forward.