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.
PMEL's surface observational network, consisting of the complementary moorings and underway observations, is designed to quantify the temporal and spatial scales of variability of carbon species, pH, and aragonite saturation in surface waters. To assess spatial dynamics in OA and evaluate the synergistic effects of coastal processes along the coasts and in the open ocean, we will leverage our Ship of Opportunity Program (SOOP) infrastructure along the U.S. west coast. Underway observations have been enhanced by the collection and analysis of discrete DIC and TA samples beginning in FY 2010.
The primary objectives of our underway OA FY 2015–2017 sustained investment work plan are to maintain existing underway observations on NOAA Ships Oscar Dyson and Bell Shimada with autonomous pCO2, pH, and ancillary sensors that cover the continental shelf regions of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. We plan to work with Dr. Rik Wanninkhof''s group at AOML to ensure that the underway OA system on NOAA Ship Ronald Brown is working well for the FY2016 West Coast Ocean Acidification cruise. In addition to making ongoing observations from existing OAP-funded CO2/pH SOOP platforms, during this funding period we are placing a major emphasis on finalizing QC on backlogged underway pH and DO data, distributing the final data to CDIAC and NODC data archives, and data synthesis and publication efforts. These efforts are being undertaken in conjunction with other members of the PMEL Carbon Group, the PMEL Science Data Integration Group, our AOML sister group, and Dr. Todd Martz at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Finally, under the OAP SI FY15-17 work plan, we will continue to maintain the pH and O2 sensors that are presently on the container ship Cap Blanche and contribute to the trans-Pacific decadal time-series.
Since ocean acidification (OA) emerged as an important scientific issue, the PMEL Carbon Group has been augmenting and expanding our observational capacity by adding pH and other biogeochemical measurements to a variety of observing platforms. In particular, high-frequency observations on moorings provide valuable information for better understanding natural variability in inorganic carbon chemistry over daily, seasonal, and interannual cycles. The current NOAA OA mooring network consists of 21 moorings in coral, coastal, and open ocean environments (Figure 1). At present, the OA mooring network includes surface measurements of CO2 (seawater and atmospheric marine boundary layer), pH, temperature (T), salinity (S), dissolved oxygen (DO), fluorescence, and turbidity at all sites. The main objective of this network is to quantify temporal variability in the ocean carbon system. This includes describing how annual, seasonal, and event-scale variability impacts air-sea CO2 flux and ocean acidification; providing the carbon chemistry baseline that informs biological observations and research; and contributing to the validation of ocean biogeochemical models and coastal forecasts. Sustained investments in the OA mooring network maintain long-term time series of OA variability and change, allow the PMEL Carbon Group and partners to provide analyses and comparisons of patterns and trends across the network, and make these mooring data available to the public and the broader scientific community.
The main hypothesis that motivates this mooring network is that the range of natural variability as well as the rates and magnitude of acidification will vary across time, space, and depth as a consequence of local and regional geochemical, hydrological, and biological mechanisms. Similar to the iconic Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 time series, the “ocean observatories” in the NOAA OA/CO2 mooring network gain importance with time as they, in this case, begin to distinguish ocean carbon uptake and ocean acidification from the large natural temporal variability in the marine environment. The main objective of the NOAA OA/CO2 mooring network is to quantify temporal variability in the ocean carbon system. This includes describing how annual, seasonal, and event-scale variability impacts CO2 flux and OA; providing the carbon chemistry baseline that informs biological observations and research; and contributing to the validation of ocean biogeochemical models and coastal forecasts.
We will examine the effects of OA conditions (elevated pCO2) on the adaptive response of a potentially vulnerable native marine mollusc species with ecological, economic and social importance in the Pacific Northwest: geoduck clams (Panopea generosa). Geoduck clam larvae will be exposed to normal and elevated pCO2 and surviving larvae will be assessed using genomic sequencing to determine changes in allele frequencies at single nucleotide polymorphisms throughout the genome, and changes in the frequency of methylation states (epialleles) throughout the epigenome. Existing ecosystem models of OA consider a species' response to increased pCO2 as a fixed attribute; however, interpretations of the effects of OA at the population level may shift substantially if species adapt to the new environment. Furthermore, we will gain a better understanding of how specific genetic and epigenetic variations influence phenotype and the ability of an organism to respond, giving us new insights into fundamental aspects of species adaptation to environmental change.
Assessing a species’ risk to ocean acidification (OA) will depend on their duration of exposure to low pH/low saturation state conditions and their sensitivity to low pH conditions. Lab species exposure experiments attempt to measure species sensitivity to low pH. This modeling project estimates species exposure. In FY13, we started using an existing circulation/water quality of model of the Salish Sea and Washington/B.C. Coasts developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to understand carbonate chemistry exposure of zooplankton species. We are using empirical relationships between carbonate chemistry, oxygen, temperature and salinity to add carbonate chemistry to the circulation model. We then use an individually-based model to simulate the movement of various zooplankton species in this environment. In FY15-FY17, we will continue development and publication of results from this model, including exploration of current and future CO2 scenarios. Results from the model will inform the Dungeness crab exposure experiments planned for FY16, as well as general zooplankton vulnerability to OA.
Ecosystem models are used to estimate the potential direct and indirect effects of ocean acidification (OA) on marine resources. The population abundance and distribution of species that are sensitive to seawater carbonate chemistry can experience the direct effects of OA. Even species not sensitive to carbonate chemistry can have indirectly changes in abundance and distribution as a result of changes in their prey, predators, competitors or critical habitat forming organisms that are sensitive. Ecosystem models use information on food webs and other relationships to estimate these ripple effects of OA on important ecosystem services like fisheries.