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 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.