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.
Accelerating Ocean Acidification Sensor Development
Why we care
After nearly a decade, the NOAA Ocean Acidification Observing Network (NOA-ON) has reached the maturity level where a sustained effort to refresh its core technology, the Moored Autonomous pCO2 (MAPCO2), is necessary to maintain the current monitoring level. There is also the pressing need to develop technology to both improve the accuracy and reliability of the measurement of a second carbonate system parameter (dissolved inorganic carbon, DIC) in order to better measure and understand ocean acidification (OA).
What we are doing
We will develop a modestly-priced, mass-producible, climate-quality surface ocean system that will measure 2 key parameters (pCO2, DIC) of the oceans carbonate (buffering) system. The system will be deployable on a variety of autonomous platforms and vehicles to meet the needs of both the ocean acidification and surface ocean carbon dioxide international observing networks.
Benefits of our work
The NOA-ON network can sustain these important observations while adding the ability to autonomously observe the ocean with a measurement quality sufficient to detect long-term changes in ocean acidification. This is a priority task for NOA-ON, the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) and others that cannot be accomplished with current technology. The pCO2-DIC sensor developed under this project will contribute towards better assessment of the vulnerability of U.S. waters to ocean acidification by providing access to real time information about the variability of OA, meeting the needs of several stakeholders in the marine resource community.
Assessing ecosystem responses of Gulf of Mexico coastal communities to ocean acidification using environmental DNA
Why we care
Recent efforts to monitor ocean acidification in the Gulf of Mexico via the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon Cycle (GOMECC) cruises have revealed spatial differences in ocean acidification. While we know that ocean acidification negatively impacts many species and exacerbates the effects of oxygen limitation and harmful algal blooms, there is little work to monitor or predict the effects of ocean acidification on biodiversity. This project employs cutting-edge technology using environmental DNA to assess biodiversity in different conditions in the Gulf of Mexico region.
What we are doing
Every organism sheds DNA. This project analyzes environmental DNA (eDNA), which is free-floating or microscopic DNA found in seawater, collected during the 4th GOMECC cruise, to identify biodiversity of bacteria, plankton, and fish in the Gulf of Mexico. eDNA will be compared to ocean properties to draw conclusions about drivers of biodiversity.
Benefits of our work
Links between eDNA, ocean acidification, and other ocean properties will provide a deeper understanding of environmental drivers of biodiversity. These relationships can inform predictions of biodiversity patterns and guide the management of key habitats in the Gulf of Mexico, and help us adapt to changing ocean conditions.
The 2022 Ocean Sciences Meeting held virtually February 24 - March 4 will feature more than 30 ocean and coastal acidification presentations by researchers supported by NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. Read more about their presentations, which include talks, posters, a town hall meeting and tutorial about Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) and ocean acidification research. The Ocean Sciences Meeting, the global leader of ocean sciences conferences, is co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), and The Oceanography Society (TOS).