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.
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.
Dr. Nina Bednarsek has been awarded the biennial SeaDoc Society's’ Salish Sea Science Prize for her groundbreaking work on the impacts of ocean acidification on pteropods, planktonic marine snails, as well as enhancing policy and regulatory processes along the US West Coast. Dr. Bednarsek was an NRC postdoctoral research fellow with NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) from 2012 - 2015 where she worked with the Carbon Program. Dr. Bednarsek’s research with PMEL has found that the highest impacts on pteropods from ocean acidification is observed in the Salish Sea. Her results show that live pteropod shells undergo dissolution at aragonite saturation state values <1, which is commonly found in subsurface Salish Sea waters and along the Washington coast during the upwelling season.
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 effects of ocean acidification on marine life have only become widely recognized in the past decade. Now researchers are rapidly expanding the scope of investigations into what falling pH means for ocean ecosystems.
A three-year survey of the California Current System along the West Coast of the United States found persistent, highly acidified water throughout this ecologically critical nearshore habitat, with 'hotspots' of pH measurements as low as any oceanic surface waters in the world.
The West Coast of the U.S. sits at the forefront of addressing impacts of OA, due to local oceanography and recent, catastrophic failures at oyster hatcheries over the past decade. Research along the West Coast has brought into sharp focus the potential local consequences of highly acidified seawater for aquaculture operations and California ecosystems more broadly. In response, states have mobilized in developing policy and science recommendations (e.g., WA Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Panel, and the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Panel). This talk will review the science of OA, how it is impacting the California Coast, and how the West Coast states have shown leadership in addressing this problem.