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A marginal sea of variability in ocean acidification and harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico

Ocean acidification (OA) in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is driven by different physical and biogeochemical factors across the region, with most data available on the eastern and northern regions and very little information from the western or southern parts of the GOM. Upwelling dominates OA variability on the West Florida Shelf, while the northern GOM experiences eutrophication- and hypoxia enhanced OA dynamics due to the influence of the Mississippi River. OA conditions in the GOM are highly variable on an interannual basis due to physical factors such as wind, temperature, precipitation, and water mass distributions. Across the same scales, the occurrence and impacts of harmful algal blooms (HABs) are also highly variable. Of the many HAB taxa present in the GOM, toxic dinoflagellates Karenia brevis and Dinophysis ovum affect Florida and Texas waters, respectively, with significant ecological and economic impacts, while the toxic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia thrives in offshore waters throughout the GOM. Closer to shore, toxic cyanobacteria (Microcystis aeruginosa, Dolichospermum sp., etc.) have been found to contribute significantly to phytoplankton communities and produce toxins in low salinity estuaries from Florida to Louisiana. While laboratory experiments provide insights into the effects of OA (on its own or in combination with other stressors) on growth or toxicity of individual HAB taxa, we are only beginning to learn how phytoplankton communities as a whole change in response to these factors. A relatively small number of studies on competitive advantages for phytoplankton in a high-CO2 environment show a range of outcomes from little to no change in community structure to shifts that favor HAB over non-HAB taxa. This talk will highlight the state of knowledge on the OA-HAB intersection in the GOM while also challenging our community to consider what such fundamental changes in community structure and HAB success mean for ecosystem function in the region. 

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ADAPTING TO OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) works to prepare society to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs. Learn more about the human connections and adaptation strategies from these efforts.

Adaptation approaches fostered by the OAP include:

FORECASTING

Using models and research to understand the sensitivity of organisms and ecosystems to ocean acidification to make predictions about the future, allowing communities and industries to prepare

MANAGEMENT

Using these models and predictions as tools to facilitate management strategies that will protect marine resources and communities from future changes

TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT

Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally

REDUCING OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT

On the Road

Drive fuel-efficient vehicles or choose public transportation. Choose your bike or walk! Don't sit idle for more than 30 seconds. Keep your tires properly inflated.

With your Food Choices

Eat local- this helps cut down on production and transport! Reduce your meat and dairy. Compost to avoid food waste ending up in the landfill

With your Food Choices

Make energy-efficient choices for your appliances and lighting. Heat and cool efficiently! Change your air filters and program your thermostat, seal and insulate your home, and support clean energy sources

By Reducing Coastal Acidification

Reduce your use of fertilizers, Improve sewage treatment and run off, and Protect and restore coastal habitats

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TAKE ACTION WITH YOUR COMMUNITY

You've taken the first step to learn more about ocean acidification - why not spread this knowledge to your community?

Every community has their unique culture, economy and ecology and what’s at stake from ocean acidification may be different depending on where you live.  As a community member, you can take a larger role in educating the public about ocean acidification. Creating awareness is the first step to taking action.  As communities gain traction, neighboring regions that share marine resources can build larger coalitions to address ocean acidification.  Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Work with informal educators, such as aquarium outreach programs and local non-profits, to teach the public about ocean acidification. Visit our Education & Outreach page to find the newest tools!
  2. Participate in habitat restoration efforts to restore habitats that help mitigate the effects of coastal acidification
  3. Facilitate conversations with local businesses that might be affected by ocean acidification, building a plan for the future.
  4. Partner with local community efforts to mitigate the driver behind ocean acidification  – excess CO2 – such as community supported agriculture, bike & car shares and other public transportation options.
  5. Contact your regional Coastal Acidification Network (CAN) to learn how OA is affecting your region and more ideas about how you can get involved in your community
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