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.
Assessing ocean acidification as a driver for enhanced metals uptake by Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis): implications for aquaculture and seafood safety
Why we care
Ocean acidification causes changes in the chemistry of stressors such as metals and may affect both the susceptibility of these animals to the contaminants as well as the toxicity. This is especially important for animals like blue mussels and other economically important shellfish that accumulate toxins in their bodies. Metal accumulation as a co-stressor of ocean acidification is not well documented for northeastern U.S. shellfish aquaculture species and better understanding these relationships supports seafood safety.
What we are doing
This work investigates the impacts of metal speciation (forms) on blue mussels under acidified conditions in both field and laboratory experiments. Scientists will first study uptake rates of these metals by blue mussels and then see how changing conditions affects their accumulation and toxicity. Comparing what they learn in the lab to what occurs in the field where these mussels are farmed, helps support decisions for seafood safety and industry best practices.
Benefits of our work
Coastal managers and aquaculturists can use these results that provide the societal benefits of better informed siting of aquaculture and safer seafood.
PMEL Sustained Ocean Acidification Biogeochemical and Ecological Survey Observations
Why we care
U.S. West coast-wide hydrographic surveys have been conducted intermittently from 2007 to 2017, providing evidence for the geographic extent and severity of ocean acidification in the continental shelf ecosystem. Scientists on the NOAA West Coast Ocean Acidification (WCOA) discovered that the combined effects of anthropogenic and biologically-derived carbon dioxide resulted in significant biological impacts for oyster larvae and pteropods, which are small, ecologically important mollusks for the food web.
What we are doing
This project executes a large-scale survey of ocean acidification carbonate chemistry in the California Current System and continues processing data and publishing scientific papers based on 2016 and 2017 surveys findings. This survey determines the spatial distributions of temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved inorganic carbon, total alkalinity, oxygen, nutrients, and biological parameters along the west coast of North America. Survey results will provide the basis for accurate assessments of changing ocean chemistry in the following areas: 1) spatial variability; 2) extent and causes of long-term changes in carbonate system parameters and their impacts on calcifying (shell-building) organisms; and 3) empirical relationships for obtaining high-resolution information on ocean acidification collected on moorings.
Benefits of our work
This project links the combined stressors of increased temperature, acidification, and hypoxia (low oxygen) with effects on marine organisms in the region and identifies spatial variability of acidifying conditions during the spring/summer upwelling season. In addition to scientific partners, this project engages a NOAA Teacher At Sea (TAS) fellow on the cruise to help develop outreach and education on West Coast ocean acidification.
PMEL Sustained Investment Coastal Underway Ocean Acidification Observations (PUO)
Why we care
Underway ship measurements of ocean acidification (OA) data on ships of opportunity (SOOP) have proven to be a robust and cost-effective way of expanding OA observations. Ship-based observations provide an understanding of the spatial extent of processes that drive OA. Surface underway observations, in conjunction with coastal moorings and dedicated large-scale surveys, make an important contribution to addressing the hypothesis that acidification varies across space and time as a consequence of local and regional processes.
What we are doing
The focus of this project is to sustain existing underway OA monitoring systems on NOAA Ships Oscar Dyson and Bell M. Shimada, which operate along the U.S. West Coast. Project objectives also include sustaining underway OA observations in the equatorial Pacific, upgrading sensor systems, and improving oxygen data collection.
Benefits of our work
This project increases high-quality surface water OA data taken underway to accompany NOAA Fisheries cruises. Efforts also improve spatial and temporal coverage of OA measurements, improving our understanding of OA variability along the Pacific coast of North America.
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.