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.
Advancing Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring
The Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification of the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology released their Sixth Report on Federally Funded Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Activities. The report highlights a range of research activities from measuring where and when ocean acidification occurs, understanding the impact of ocean and coastal acidification on ecosystems and communities, to identifying potential ocean-based climate solutions. The report included projects that advance observations and modeling of ocean carbon, test new technology developments, study potential socioeconomic impacts of ocean acidification, and conduct public education and outreach. Collectively, this research provides important insights that will enable managers and communities to better anticipate and respond to ocean and coastal acidification.
White House Announcement
Link to Report
NOAA invests $18.9M in a coordinated effort to maximize advances in harmful algal bloom (HAB) mitigation, monitoring and forecasting. Four of new research awards support ($1.5M) funded in partnership by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and NOAA’s Ocean Acidification program will determine interactive effects of HABs and ocean acidification. Other projects supported through this effort will establish a U.S. Harmful Algal Bloom Control Incubator, enhance detection of HAB toxins and improve forecasts and investigate the socioeconomic impacts of HABs. Read more
University of Michigan, University of Minnesota Duluth, Oberlin College, University of Kentucky, and University of Toledo received $281,975 to improve our understanding of the synergistic impacts of acidification, temperature, total alkalinity, and nutrients on toxic cyanobacteria harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Bowdoin College, and NERACOOS received $499,999 to address gaps in understanding relationships between harmful algal bloom behavior and ocean acidification in the northeast Atlantic, especially where it is associated with coastal eutrophication and hypoxia.
Stony Brook University, Adelphi University, and St. Joseph's College received $364,265 to establish a comprehensive understanding of how three of the most prominent HABs on the US east coast respond to ocean acidification, and how their co-occurrence will economically impact fisheries and shellfisheries.
Northwest Indian College, San Francisco State University, and University of Washington received $355,281 to understand the current relationships between ocean acidification and harmful algal bloom interactions in the Salish Sea, and to quantify how ocean acidification influences growth and toxicity.
Autonomous glider collects information to track harmful algal blooms and water quality. Credit: Ben Yair Raanan, MBARI
NOAA OAP convenes community meeting in San Diego, CA!
Every three years, the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program convenes researchers, communicators and others in the OA community for a meeting to discuss and share the latest research and future needs and directions. We want your participation! Registration is free.
Shape the future strategic direction of the OAP
Inform community members of recent OAP-supported efforts
Foster collaborations within the OA research community
Identify critical research gaps and efforts to address them
Highlight and discuss diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and justice in OA research and our community
Find more details and register HERE.
Effects of predicted changes in ocean pCO2 and interactions with other stressors on the physiology and behavior of commercially important crabs in Alaska
Why we care
Ocean acidification disrupts the internal acid-base balance of crabs and may hinder the creation and maintenance of shells. Previous studies on commercially important crab species in Alaska found that ocean acidification changes physiology, decreases growth and condition, increases mortality, decreases hatching success, and changes exoskeleton (shell) hardness and structure in many Alaska crab species. Ocean temperature is a co-stressor, which may either decrease or increase the effects of ocean acidification on crabs. These individual effects may lead to population level decreases and impact coastal communities that rely on them if these crabs are unable to acclimate or adapt.
What we are doing
The Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) aims to enhance our understanding of species responses to ocean acidification, predict how changes in ocean chemistry will affect marine ecosystems and organisms, assess socioeconomic impacts, and provide ocean acidification education and outreach. This project continues to assess the physiological response to ocean acidification of early life history stages in crabs. Researchers will examine the potential for acclimation of crab species through experimentation. Experimental data will be used to inform modeling efforts to assess the dynamics of the crab populations and coastal community resilience to future environmental changes in the ocean.
Benefits of our work
The AFSC team will continue to address individual physiological responses that can be scaled to population level effects. Additionally, we will focus on cellular and molecular responses to better understand the potential for acclimation or adaptation. Results from this project will inform models, including stock assessments for long-term fisheries management through the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council.
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.