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Assessing Carbon Dioxide Removal and Ecosystem Response for an Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement Field Trial

Gliders can sample ocean conditions and track impacts of ocean alkalinity enhancement methods. Credit: NOAA AOML

Why we care
Tracking how ocean alkalinity enhancement reduces acidity, resulting in carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere is important for knowing how, where and when to deploy this approach as well as its potential impacts to marine life. Capitalizing on an ocean alkalinization field trial in the Gulf of Maine already underway, this project will measure additional carbon uptake and ecosystem responses to the alkalinity enhancement. 

What we will do
Researchers will use five ocean gliders to track the alkalinity released by a field trial in the Gulf of Maine. The gliders will track a patch of seawater with elevated alkalinity and ‘tagged’ with an inert dye and monitor changes in pH (measure of how alkaline or acidic the water is). The gliders can identify these changes from baseline data collected several weeks prior to the start of the trial as well as other measurements and modeled data collected as part of the larger experiment. In order to make these measurements, the team will add specialized sensors to the gliders. This engineering phase will include housing modifications and electrical integration of the pH and dye sensors into the glider body, as well as the development of firmware that controls the glider and the incorporated sensors. Researchers will test integration of these components on short deployments the year before the main alkalinity addition experiment. In addition to these sensors, the glider will also measure temperature, salinity, current speeds and direction, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll, and ocean sound.  The gliders equipped with these sensors will first help identify a suitable location within the bounds of a permitted patch for the alkalinity release. The gliders will then hone in on a particular location or feature. Parts of the fleet will stay close to the original site of release while others will track the outer edges of the patch. During the data analysis phase, reference-quality measurements will be made as part of the parallel alkalinity addition project. These simultaneous measurements allow for the calibration of the glider data, as well as calculation of an overall carbon budget. Data from the glider and from these calculations will also be integrated into a model to characterize how well the gliders were able to monitor the evolution of the patch of added alkalinity over time. 

Benefits of our work
Overall, this research contributes to simultaneous estimates of the efficiency, additionality, and possible leakage of the carbon removed by ocean alkalinity enhancement under development. Accordingly, the results may be used to help establish important monitoring, reporting, and verification practices for future carbon removal experiments.

Award amount: $1,877,644
Funding source(s): NOAA
IRA funding? Yes
Project duration: 3 years

David Nicholson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Adam Subhas, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
Yui Takeshita, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
Robert Todd, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)
Katherine Zaba, MRV Systems, LLC

Read the webstory from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and press release on this and other projects supported from this funding call at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI).

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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:


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


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


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


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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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
       More for Taking Community Action