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.
Ocean acidification (OA) is already harming shellfish species in the Pacific Northwest, a global hotspot of OA. While OA poses a threat to regional communities, economies, and cultures that rely on shellfish, identified gaps remain in adaptive capacity and vulnerability of several stakeholders. This project will address these gaps by extending long-standing collaborative OA vulnerability research with shellfish growers to include other shellfish users (e.g. port towns, Native American tribes and shellfish sector employees). The project includes five objectives: 1) Map variations in shellfisheries’ exposure to OA and identify those that are most sensitive, 2) quantify production losses from OA and costs of investment in adaptation 3) Identify potential pathways for adaptation, 4) identify key technological, institutional, legislative, financial and cultural barriers to OA adaptation, 5) evaluate the cost of potential adaptation strategies, and develop behavioral models to predict the likelihood of users adopting specific adaptation strategies. The research is designed to identify key vulnerabilities, determine the cost of OA to Pacific Northwest shellfish stakeholders, and to model adaptation pathways for maximizing resilience to OA. The adaptation framework developed here will be replicable in other shellfisheries yet to experience OA impacts.
The Olympic Coast, located in the Pacific Northwest U.S., stands as a region already experiencing effects of ocean acidification (OA). This poses risks to marine resources important to the public, especially local Native American tribes who are rooted in this place and depend on marine treaty-protected resources. This project brings together original social science research, synthesis of existing chemical and biological data from open ocean to intertidal areas, and model projections, to assess current and projected Olympic Coast vulnerabilities associated with OA. This critical research aims to increase the tribes’ ability to prepare for and respond to OA through respective community-driven strategies. By constructing a comprehensive, place-based approach to assess OA vulnerability, decision-makers in the Pacific Northwest will be better able to anticipate, evaluate and manage societal risks and impacts of OA. This collaborative project is developed in partnership with tribal co-investigators and regional resource managers from start to finish and is rooted in a focus on local priorities for social, cultural, and ecological health and adaptive capacity.
NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast Region (Olympic Coast, Greater Farallones, Cordell Bank, Monterey Bay and Channel Islands) will partner with Flathead Valley Community College, NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NFSC), to increase accessibility and understanding of tools and protocol for ocean acidification monitoring through citizen science and education programs.
Humans and the ocean are inextricably interconnected, with all humans relying on ocean ecosystem outputs such as oxygen, water and food. Currently, ocean ecosystems are threatened by multiple global change stressors, including ocean acidification (OA). The development of OA monitoring tools and education curriculum will be instrumental in providing the public with a better understanding of the process of OA and impacts of a more acidic environment to valuable ocean ecosystems.
NOAA’s West Coast Region (WCR) sanctuaries will work with external partner Dr. David Long, of Flathead Valley Community College, to pilot a field-based pH-measuring instrument called ”pHyter” with WCR sanctuaries’ OA education and outreach programs, including citizen science, teacher workshops and student field investigations. Dr. Long and his students recently developed pHyter: a hand-held chemical indicator-based spectrophotometric pH- measuring device. OAP funds will support the expansion of pHyter instrument capabilities to permit iPhone and android apps to interface and upload to the international GLOBE Program GIS database, increasing accessibility of pH data.
Ocean acidification science has evolved rapidly over the past decade. This research landscape has shifted in two important directions. First, the scale of investigation, once limited to global or open ocean scale observations, has broadened with focus on resolving local expression and impacts of OA. Second, research that was almost exclusively restricted to understanding and forecasting exposure and impacts is now complimented by studies on the local actions and solutions for OA mitigation and adaptation. These shifts have created new opportunities for a communications arena where the need for local, solutions-based messages have been identified as key barriers to engagement. At the same time, the lack of effective communications tools that make new research knowledge readily accessible to a range of audience groups has also been recognized as a priority area of need.
To address these gaps, we propose to develop a series of audience-specific videos that focuses on local actions and solutions that are underway in Oregon to address OA. By telling the stories of 1) a citizen science OA monitoring network, 2) efforts to breed a better (more OA-resistant) oyster, 3) shellfish hatcheries adapting to change, and 4) new benefits from seagrass beds in mitigating OA, we aim to broaden the OA narrative to include messages of positive actions. We will produce videos that are tailored for 3 groups of audiences (estimated numbers reached): high school students that will receive a new OA curriculum module (~200), aquarium visitors on the Oregon Coast (up to 150,000/yr), and engaged stakeholders visiting a new Oregon ocean story map site (~1000) and/or attend public forums on coastal issues (~400). The project team comprises a partnership between Oregon Sea Grant, and representatives from academic research (Oregon State University) and environmental NGO’s (Surfrider Foundation).
Working across four IOOS Regional Associations in partnership with the shellfish industry and other groups affected by ocean acidification (OA), our proposal is divided into four tasks that continue the foundational aspects established to date and expand both technical capacity and the development of new technology with respect to OA observing needs for shellfish growers and other related impacted and potentially vulnerable U.S. industries, governments (tribal, state, local) and other stakeholders. Our proposed work includes development of observing technology, expert oversight intelligence, data dissemination, and outreach and will be executed by a team that includes a sensor technology industry and academic and government scientists. We will: 1) Develop new lower cost and higher accuracy sensor technology for OA monitoring and expand them to new sites; 2) Utilize regional partnerships of users and local experts to implement and provide Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) tests of the new OA sensors; 3) Establish data handling and dissemination mechanisms that provide both user-friendly and standards-based web service access that are exportable from the Pacific Coast module to the entirety of U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS); and 4) Provide education and outreach services to stakeholders concerned about and potentially impacted by OA.