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.
Why we care:
Enhancing our ability to measure water chemistry with the best technology available is essential to understand and track where and how ocean acidification changes in marine ecosystems. The NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Carbon Group continuously augments, develops, and evaluates sensors on moorings to collect information about natural variability in inorganic carbon chemistry over daily to inter-annual cycles. This project will identify, develop, and implement the best technology to support the existing National Ocean Acidification Observing Network (NOA-ON) buoy network and increase coverage of ocean acidification time series observations.
What we are doing:
The three main project activities include: 1) compile autonomous profile data at the Chába site and apply to biological exposure research; 2) test prototype total alkalinity (TA) sensors at the coral reef test-beds at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii (CRIMP2 buoy) and Florida Keys (Cheeca Rocks buoy); and 3) continue development of a pCO2-DIC sensor based on the need to improve data return of two carbon parameters from the NOA-ON buoys. These sensors measure parts of the carbonate system, the ocean’s buffering system.
Benefits of our work:
This project supports the main goals of the NOA-ON by quantifying temporal variability in the ocean carbon system and making these high-quality time series available to other scientists and the public. Specific benefits provided to stakeholders include: 1) improved understanding of the range of subsurface ocean acidification conditions in two U.S. coral systems; 2) improved understanding of annual, seasonal, and event-scale variability of subsurface ocean acidification conditions and the potential impact to marine organisms; and 3) improved access to high-quality, high-frequency subsurface data to inform biological research and validation of ocean biogeochemical models and coastal forecasts.
Acidification in brackish estuarine environments, such as the Chesapeake Bay, is intensified by coastal inputs such as runoff, atmospheric pollution and freshwater sources. The Chesapeake Bay is home to commercial shellfish hatcheries that supply seed that is sold to and planted in hundreds of shellfish farms within the Chesapeake. A great deal of research has been dedicated to understanding the impact of acidification on shellfish, and has shown even greater impacts to shellfish growth and survival in lower salinity and nutrient-rich environments. The shellfish industry relies on consistent hatchery production to sustain and expand operations that could greatly benefit from regional OA forecasts and metrics. This project will synthesize recent CO2 system observations with long-term water quality parameters and combine observations an existing baywide, high-resolution 3D model. The proposed research will develop forecasts of acidification and develop acidification metrics tailored to support decision-making needs of commercial shellfish hatchery and nursery operators.
Among the NOAA designated Large Marine Ecosystems, the Gulf
of Mexico (GOM) remains poorly understood in terms of its current OA conditions, despite its
ecological and economic significance. In the northwestern GOM (nwGOM), decadal
acidification has been observed in the shelf-slope region, with metabolic production of CO2
contributing to a larger fraction of CO2 accumulation than uptake of anthropogenic CO2, and the
observed rate of acidification is significantly greater than that in other tropical and subtropical
areas. Unfortunately, whether the observed OA in this region represents a short-term
phenomenon or a long-term trend is unknown.
It is hypothesized that increasing atmospheric CO2, increasing terrestrial nutrient export
due to an enhanced hydrological cycle, and enhanced upwelling due to climate change will cause
the continental shelf-slope region in the nwGOM to acidify faster than other tropical and
subtropical seas. In order to test this hypothesis wave gliders, in -stiu sensor along withe underway measurements from research vessels will measure carbonated chemistry in in surface and shallow waters. Modeling will be used tp integrate the chemical signals into the models to hindcast/predict spatia; and temporal variation of the OA signal for the the optimization of monitoring design and implementation.
The U.S. Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem, supports some of the nation’s most economically valuable coastal fisheries, yet most of this revenue comes from shellfish that are sensitive to ocean acidification (OA). Furthermore, the weakly buffered northern region of this area is expected to have greater susceptibility to OA. Existing OA observations in the NES do not sample at the time, space, and depth scales needed to capture the physical, biological, and chemical processes occurring in this dynamic coastal shelf region. Specific to inorganic carbon and OA, the data available in the region has not been leveraged to conduct a comprehensive regional-scale analysis that would increase the ability to understand and model seasonal-scale, spatial-scale, and subsurface carbonate chemistry dynamics, variability, and drivers in the NES. This project optimizes the NES OA observation network encompassing the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Maine regions by adding seasonal deployments of underwater gliders equipped with transformative, newly developed and tested deep ISFET-based pH sensors and additional sensors (measuring temperature, salinity for total alkalinity and aragonite saturation [ΩArag] estimation, oxygen, and chlorophyll), optimizing existing regional sampling to enhance carbonate chemistry measurements in several key locations, and compiling and integrating existing OA assets. The researchers will apply these data to an existing NES ocean ecosystem/biogeochemical (BGC) model that resolves carbonate chemistry and its variability.