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Biological Response

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.


FISHERIES SCIENCE CENTERS

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.

 


Corals

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.

 


Fish

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

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

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.


OAP SUPPORTED BIOLOGICAL RESPONSE PROJECTS

How sensitive are systems in the Chesapeake Bay to acidification and nutrient pollution?

Jeremy Testa, University of Maryland

The wild oyster industry has suffered repeated collapses in the Chesapeake Bay due to overharvesting, disease, and declining environmental conditions. How future conditions will affect the Eastern oyster remain uncertain, not only because these conditions such as increased freshwater are difficult to predict , but also because the interactions between stressors such as ocean acidification, temperature, nutrient runoff and sea level rise could lead to unexpected chemical, biological, and economic change. The changes in stressors and their impacts do not always proceed in a straight line.The potential responses of various life stages of the Eastern oyster to stressors like acidification and eutrophication has received little attention. This project will study the impact of different stressors to Chesapeake Bay, a large estuarine system, and the Eastern oyster. The study will bring together different models to understand the relationship between biogeochemical cycling of carbon, oxygen, and nutrients, oyster growth and survival, and oyster economic profitability in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The project will provide insights into future conditions and habitats where aquaculture and wild oyster populations may be most vulnerable to the climate and ocean changes.
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Ocean and Coastal Acidification Thresholds from Long Island Sound to the Nova Scotian Shelf

Ruairidh Morrison, NERACOOS

How will nearshore and coastal ecosystems respond to ocean and coastal acidification in the Northeast? How will these changes affect human communities? An absence of actionable information and understanding of the dynamic nature of coastal acidification is a major challenge to Northeast seafood industry, resource managers, and coastal policymakers. This project will expand the existing Northeast Coastal Ocean Forecast System to develop actionable guidance for coastal water quality and marine resource managers through workshops and direct engagement. Workshops and focus groups will be held to determine information needs, decision scenarios, modeling priorities, and options for delivering actionable information for three specific users: (1) water quality managers and monitoring systems, (2) oyster growers, and (3) the wild harvest shellfishing industry. The research will focus on advancing ocean acidification detection and warning systems that take into account other environmental stressors in Northeast coastal waters.
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Can meadows of underwater eelgrass help mitigate the harmful effects of Ocean Acidification on Eastern oysters?

Emily Rivest, Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV), such as eelgrass, could mitigate the harmful impacts of ocean acidification on Eastern oysters by reducing the acidity of waters where oysters grow. These underwater grasses take up carbon dioxide and release oxygen into coastal waters, reducing the exposure of marine organisms to increases in acidity conditions that slow or stop oyster growth and reproduction. Oysters, in turn, improve water clarity forseagrasses to thrive by filtering particles out of the water and allowing more sunlight to penetrate. This modeling project will identify the threshold of acidification beyond which the economically important Eastern oyster is negatively impacted and will evaluate the potential benefit of seagrasses in protecting oysters and the ecosystem services they provide. The modeling tool will also identify the acidification conditions in which seagrass restoration is most helpful and when the economic benefits of this restoration to Easter oyster production outweigh the costs. At the end of this project, the final model will be freely available as an online tool and will help scientists, managers and oyster growers assess the potential for both seagrass and oyster restoration.
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Research to inform adaptation decisions for Alaska’s Salmon Fisheries

David Finnoff, University of Wyoming

Alaska is expected to experience ocean acidification faster than any other United States coastal waters, primarily due to its colder water which absorbs more carbon dioxide than warmer waters. With seafood industry job incomes over $1.5 billion annually and a communities that rely on healthy oceans for subsistence, nutrition, and culture, increased ocean acidification is expected to have significant implications. Research on the potential impact to salmon has emerged as one of the top priorities, identified during a 2016 statewide workshop and stakeholder survey. Despite the economic importance of salmon, little research has been done on the effects of ocean acidification on salmon and the fishing industry and communities that depends on salmon. Acidification has been shown to impair coho salmon’s ability to smell and detect their prey. It has also been shown to reduce pink salmon growth rates. In addition, future ocean acidification is expected to affect salmon prey species, which is expected to affect Pacific salmon survival, abundance and productivity. This project will investigate the implication of ocean acidification thresholds and major ecosystem shifts in the Gulf of Alaska on salmon. Integrated human-ecological models will be developed to simulate management scenarios to assess the benefits of pre-emptive adaptation planning and policy making. The information from modeling these scenarios will help create decision tools for salmon managers.
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Interactions between ocean acidification and eutrophication in estuaries: Modeling opportunities and limitations for shellfish restoration

Jeremy Testa, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Chesapeake Biological Laboratory

The objective of this project is to make significant strides in bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and current management needs by integrating existing biogeochemical model frameworks, field measurements, and experimental work toward the goals of (1) delineating atmospheric and eutrophication drivers of Chesapeake Bay acidification and improve our understanding of estuarine carbonate chemistry, (2) developing a spatially explicit framework to identify shellfish restoration areas most and least prone to acidification impacts, and (3) better understanding feedbacks associated with future environmental conditions and shellfish restoration goals estuary-wide and within a model tributary. This effort includes (1) a field campaign to make the first comprehensive study of the spatial and temporal variability in the carbonate system in Chesapeake Bay, (2) experiments to quantify both carbonate and nutrient exchange between intact oyster reefs and the surrounding water while measuring response of these fluxes to reef structure and acidification, and (3) an advancement in numerical modeling tools to simultaneously simulate the dynamics of eutrophication, hypoxia, carbonate chemistry, and oyster reef growth and interaction with the water-column under present and future conditions.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects
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