Ocean acidification is a threat to food security, economies, and culture because of its potential impacts on marine ecosystem services. Information on how ocean acidification will impact ecosystems and the services they provide can help guide how we adapt to and mitigate forecasted changes.
The OAP funds modeling studies to advance our understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on coastal ecosystems and fisheries.
Scientists can use a wide variety of models to project the potential progression of acidification in different regions, the impacts that changes in chemistry may have on marine life, and how these changes could affect a variety of ecosystem services including fisheries, aquaculture, and protection of coasts by coral reefs. For example, projections of ocean acidification can be incorporated into food-web models to better understand how changing ocean chemistry could affect harvested species, protected species, and the structure of the food web itself. Economic-forecast models can be used to analyze the economic impacts of potential changes in fisheries harvest caused by ocean acidification.
Figure from: Harvey et al. 2010
Experiments on species response suggest that ocean acidification will directly affect a wide variety of organisms from calcifying shellfish and coral to fish and phytoplankton. Ecosystem models can capture the complex effects of ocean acidification on entire ecosystems.
How marine organisms respond to ocean acidification will be influenced by their reaction to chemistry change and their interactions with others species, such as their predators and prey. Scientists use ecosystem models to understand how ocean chemistry may affect entire ecosystems because they account for the complex interactions between organisms. Output from such modeling exercises can inform management of fisheries, protected species, and other important natural resources. Because ecosystem feedbacks are complex, understanding the uncertainty associated with these models is critical to effective management.
Projections of the economic impacts of ocean acidification can be created by combining economic models with findings from laboratory experiments and ecological models.
For example, these links can be made for port communities or specific fisheries through modeling changes in fish harvest. Researchers at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center have developed bio-economic forecasts for the economically and culturally important species red king crab. Researchers at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center are developing projections of how the economies of regional port communities might be altered by potential changes in West Coast fisheries caused by ocean acidification.
The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) is working to build knowledge about how to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification (OA) and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs.
Turning current observations into forecasts is the key mechanism by which adaptation plans are created.
Forecasting provides insight into a vision of the future by using models that visualize how quickly and where ocean chemistry will be changing in tandem with an understanding of how sensitive marine resources and communities are to these changes. By making predictions about the future, we can better adapt and prepare for ocean acidification. Coastal forecasts for ocean acidification are currently being developed for the West Coast, Chesapeake Bay, the East Coast, Caribbean and the western Gulf of Mexico. Ocean acidification hotspots are areas that are particularly vulnerable, either from a biological, economic, or cultural perspective. Identification of these hot spots in coastal waters is a priority for the Coastal Acidification Networks (CANs), fostered by the Ocean Acidification Program around the country. These networks bring together scientists, decision makers, fishermen and other stakeholders to identify and answer the most important questions about acidification and its effects in the region.
NOAA scientists have played an important role in development of the J-SCOPE forecast system, used to create seasonal forecasts for the North Pacific region. These forecasts will allow fisheries managers to predict seasonal outlooks for management decisions.
Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally
Management strategies use information provided by research and tools that can be used to make sound decisions to effectively conserve marine resources. Baseline research about organism and community sensitivity to ocean acidification is incorporated into these strategies, in an effort to sustain these resources for the future.
Before management plans can be created it is necessary to have baseline research about the effects of ocean acidification on marine resources, such as Pacific oysters, Dungeness crabs and rockfish. The OAP funds NOAA Fisheries Science Centers to expose various life stages of valuable species to present and future acidification conditions. The biological response research is then incorporated into models that can be used to create tools for managers to use so that they can test different scenarios on species’ populations and habitats. Modeling efforts led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are now being used to produce one of these tools for Atlantic sea scallop fisheries. The dashboard will allow managers to test the impacts of different management actions on scallop populations. In the Pacific Northwest, NOAA, the University of Washington, and shellfish industry scientists have formed a strong partnership to adapt to ocean acidification impacts that have already affected the shellfish industry. Together these researchers determined that acidification was threatening oyster production and offered an approach to address it. They installed equipment to monitor carbon chemistry at shellfish hatcheries and worked with hatchery managers to develop methods that protect developing oyster larvae from exposure to low pH waters. Early warning tools are now being used to forecast seasonal acidification conditions to enable shellfish growers to adapt their practices.
Ocean acidification is a global challenge, and the most effective adaptation strategies are holistic, incorporating the knowledge and experiences of many sectors. As an answer to the difficulty of bridging geographic and professional divides, together with the Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification, NOAA helped launch the Ocean Acidification Information Exchange, an online community and discussion forum.
The OA Information Exchange is designed to make it easy to connect and find information, with tools to post updates, share documents, media, links, and events with fellow members. The site welcomes scientists, educators, students, policy makers, members of industry, and concerned citizens to help fulfill the mission of building a well-informed community ready to respond and adapt to ocean and coastal acidification. If you would like to join the conversation, please request an account at oainfoexchange.org/request-account.html
This portal provides a real-time data stream of ocean acidification data that can be used by shellfish growers, regional managers, stakeholders and the public. The portal can be used to make resource decisions and build adaptation strategies.
Effects of OA on Alaskan and Arctic fishes: physiological sensitivity in a changing ecosystem
Why we care
There is significant concern about ocean acidification disrupting marine ecosystems, reducing productivity of important fishery resources, and impacting the communities that rely upon those resources. To predict the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of acidification, it is critical to understand the complex interactions between environmental stressors of physiology and ecology of marine fishes. Previous work on Alaskan groundfish focused on direct physiological effects of OA on early life stages. We need to further this work to understand the interaction between OA and co-stressors like elevated temperatures on fish productivity.
What we are doing
This AFSC project examines the interactive effects of OA and elevated temperatures on three fish species that are critical to Alaska and Arctic fisheries: Pacific cod, Arctic cod, and yellowfin sole. Laboratory experiments will track the impact of OA exposure on adult Arctic cod reproductive output, egg quality, and larval production. Further experiments will consider the potential for within-generation and trans-generational acclimation and adaptation to environmental changes. Risk assessments for regional fisheries will incorporate the data from this project.
Benefits of our work
Findings from this research will provide the foundation necessary to evaluate the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of ocean acidification in Alaskan and Arctic waters.
Resiliency and sensitivity of marine fish to elevated CO2: osmoregulatory neurosensory behavioral and metabolic responses in salmon and sablefish
Why we care
Elevated levels of marine carbon dioxide can disrupt how many marine fishes detect their environment, impairing their ability to respond appropriately to chemical, auditory, and visual cues. The mechanisms underlying differences in species sensitivity and resilience are poorly understood. This NWFSC project will explore the mechanisms underlying differences in carbon dioxide sensitivity between marine species that occupy habitats with different carbonate chemistries.
What we are doing
We will compare regulatory capabilities and behavioral responses of sablefish and salmon to improve our understanding of how future fish populations may adapt to changing ocean chemistries. Our primary objectives are to build on existing OA infrastructure and previous research at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center to determine: 1) the mechanisms underlying sablefish resilience to low pH waters, and 2) the potential behavioral and physiological impacts of low pH exposure in pink and Chinook salmon.
Benefits of our work
Pacific salmon and sablefish are key species in the marine ecosystems of the western United States. They are an integral part of the history, culture, and economy of the West Coast and Alaska. This research advances our understanding of impacts of OA on salmon and sablefish behaviors and sensory systems. Findings enable fishery managers and scientific partners to identify species, populations, and geographic areas of concern. Ultimately, project results will inform managers about the resiliency and sensitivity of salmon to OA and assist their efforts for conservation priorities.
Sustained Observations of Ocean Acidification in Alaska Coastal Seas
Why we care
Coastal regions around Alaska experience some of the most rapid and extensive progressions of ocean acidification (OA) in the United States. Assessments indicate that Alaska coastal communities have a varying degree of vulnerability to OA ranging from moderate to severe. Economically vital fishing regions are the most vulnerable. Sustained monitoring is critical to track the extent and impact of ocean acidification in habitats that are home to sensitive species such as red king crab in the Bering Sea.
What we are doing
This project “rethinks” the coastal Alaskan OA monitoring effort (initiated in 2015) by sampling Alaska waters directly through the annual population survey program of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC). This new vision doubles the spatial footprint of Alaska OA observations, increases the time resolution of these observations, and complements shipboard surveys in Alaska. Carbonate chemistry samples will be combined with fisheries population surveys to assess OA in the habitats of keystone organisms in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
Benefits of our work
This project enhances our understanding of how the accumulation of anthropogenic carbon dioxide affects the seasonal progression of carbonate carbonate chemistry variables in the Gulf of Alaska. The observations can also be used to validate new OA models developed for the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Additionally, it can be applied to bioeconomic forecast models of crab and walleye pollock providing insight on how to adapt and build resilience to impacted industries and communities.