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.
West Coast stakeholders, including fishers and shellfish farmers reliant on key economically and culturally important species, have already experienced adverse consequences of ocean acidification (OA and other stressors. However, the human dimension of vulnerability and people’s capacity to adapt, particularly in highly resource-dependent economies, remains understudied. In times of changing ocean conditions, high levels of dependence on natural resources expose certain coastal communities to higher risks and vulnerability. Achieving healthy ocean ecosystems and coastal economies in state and federal waters requires cross-disciplinary work to understand what factors (environmental, economic, social, cultural) determine the vulnerability of coastal communities to environmental change, as well as the potential for developing strategies to adapt to these changes. People’s adaptive capacity in the face of environmental disturbance depends on community knowledge, networks, and practices, as well as institutional policies and strategies that support adaptation. This project will assess how 6 coastal communities in Oregon and California are experiencing environmental vulnerability to OA and what they are doing to adapt to OA and associated impacts; as well as evaluate barriers to and key factors for coping in different contexts that can help inform policies to foster and support more resilient communities.The overarching goals of this project are to fill knowledge gaps about the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of coastal communities to OA and other environmental stressors in order to a)support thriving and resilient coastal communities along the U.S. West Coast and b) to support OA policy and decision-making at the state level of governance.
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).