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.
NOAA operates the largest ship of opportunity (SOOP) effort for surface CO2 observations in the world. The objective of the ocean acidification (OA) monitoring effort in the coastal ocean on NOAA fisheries ships Gordon Gunter and Henry B. Bigelow is to obtain data for a data-based ocean acidification product suite for the East Coast and Gulf Coast. The ship of opportunity (SOOP) in support of OA monitoring (SOOP-OA) is in direct response to the needs expressed in the NOAA OA strategic plan, national and international program documentation, to understand how the rates and magnitude of acidification will vary across time and space, as a consequence of local and regional geochemical, hydrological, and biological variability and trends. The core of understanding rests upon monitoring the carbon system and related physical and biogeochemical parameters that are used to characterize the state of the coastal ocean in the project area.
The NOAA fisheries ships Gunter and Bigelow provide regular cruise tracks used in stock assessments such that over time correlations and causality can be obtained between OA and fisheries interests. The repeatability also provides good snapshots of change. As there are robust correlations between surface CO2 levels and remotely sensed parameters, these data are critical for the mapping of OA parameters. The development of algorithms to perform this mapping is done from support measurements on the SOOP-OA, other SOOP data under our purview, and from the dedicated research cruises.
Dedicated research cruises are used to obtain subsurface measurements and a comprehensive suite of biogeochemical observations to gain a process level understanding of OA. OAP provides funds to carry out the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast Carbon (GOMECC) research cruises every 5 years. These cruises provide a data set of unprecedented quality of physical and chemical coastal ocean parameters that is used both for improved spatial understanding of OA and also to provide a general understanding of changing patterns over time by comparison with previous cruises. The monitoring component is an essential part of the OAP, providing a long-term assessment of changes of biogeochemistry and ecology in response to increasing CO2 atmospheric levels and large-scale changes in coastal dynamics.
The climate quality data from the research cruises provide an important link to the Global Ocean Acidification Network (GOAN) effort, and contribute to a long-term record of dynamics and processes controlling OA on the coastal shelves. The data are used for validation measurements of autonomous assets, applying the data for algorithm development utilizing remotely sensed signals that are used to characterize saturation states, and to project the future state of ocean acidification in the project area. The GOMECC research cruises have now been divided into two cruises, one focused on the east coast, the “East Coast Ocean Acidification” (ECOA) cruise and the other covering the Gulf of Mexico, the “Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon Cycle” (GOMECC) cruise.
The PMEL Carbon Group has been augmenting and expanding high-frequency observations on moorings to provide valuable information for better understanding natural variability in inorganic carbon chemistry over daily to inter-annual cycles. The current NOAA Ocean Acidification Observing Network (NOA-ON) consists of 21 moorings in coral, coastal, and open ocean environments. At present, the OA mooring network includes a standardized suite of surface sensors measuring for air and seawater partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2), pH, temperature (T), salinity (S), dissolved oxygen (DO), fluorescence, and turbidity at all sites. Although OA is primarily driven by uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere, many coastal and estuarine processes that affect water chemistry and the interpretation of coastal OA are manifested in subsurface waters. Furthermore, many of the most sensitive organisms (e.g. corals, shellfish) are benthic and respond to subsurface water chemistry.
The Moored Autonomous pCO2 (MAPCO2) systems currently used on the 21 OA moorings are uniquely adapted for surface only measurements. PMEL has demonstrated these MAPCO2 systems are compatible with and comparable to ship-based underway pCO2 systems and discrete validation measurements used in the NOA-ON. However, similar standardized methods and technologies have not been evaluated for subsurface observations on the existing mooring network. Our project evaluates the best carbon system technologies to deploy in the subsurface, demonstrate the utility of these enhanced observations on the moorings, and make recommendations on how advanced technologies can be incorporated into the NOA-ON.
This project contributes to the NOAA objective to provide accurate and reliable data from sustained and integrated earth observing systems through research, development, deployment, and operation of systems to collect detailed carbonate chemistry measurements as a part of a hydrographic research cruises along the west coast. The NOAA Ocean Acidification Monitoring Program along North American coastlines (Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf, and Alaskan) and in the global open ocean will focus on mapping and monitoring the distribution of key indicators of ocean acidification including carbon dioxide, pH, and carbonate mineral saturation states. The overarching goal of the program is to determine the trends in ocean acidification (OA) and to provide concrete information that can be used to address acidification issues. The detailed hydrographic research cruises that are planned to be conducted every four years along our coasts are essential for providing high-quality intercalibration data across the full suite of OA observing assets in coastal waters, including well-proven technologies such as the MAPCO2 moored CO2 system and underway pCO2 systems on ships-of-opportunity as well as developing technologies such as wave gliders and sensors for additional carbon parameters.
The hydrographic cruise measurements facilitate the overall monitoring effort's ability to address the near-term performance measure of quantifying aragonite saturation state in the areas studied to within 0.2. In addition, the recurring coast-wide cruises allow us a critical opportunity to assess OA conditions along the West Coast in a synoptic fashion. Cruise-based observations have provided critical information for model validation that is facilitating the improvement of next-generation physical-biogeochemical models projecting OA conditions into the past and the future.
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.