Assess, anticipate, adapt: Vulnerability and responses to ocean acidification NOAA Ocean Acidification Program

There are areas in the United States where marine resources and the communities and industries that depend on them are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of ocean acidification. In three US regions, our understanding of vulnerability is being advanced by coupling ocean and social science data to equip communities and industries with the information needed to evaluate, anticipate, and adapt to ocean acidification.

The Olympic Coast as a Sentinel: Partnering with indigenous communities to act in the face of change

Native communities of the Olympic Peninsula have witnessed shifts along their coasts over the centuries and are now facing a change to which this region is particularly vulnerable - ocean acidification. Local indigenous tribes have depended on local marine species for their livelihoods, food security and cultural practices, observing, and managing these waters for thousands of years. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, tribes, and regional scientists have been measuring trends in these waters over the past few decades. The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program has awarded funding to the University of Washington and tribal partners to synthesize the information and data from these sources, and study social consequences and responses, to further understand and plan for the impacts ocean acidification will have on the marine resources and communities of the Olympic Coast.

“The goal of this project is to marry two currently disparate data sets; ocean chemistry data collected by natural scientists, and social science data that includes how people use the resources that may be impacted,” says Dr. Jan Newton of University of Washington, lead investigator for this project. At the culmination of this project, tribal communities and decision-makers in the Pacific Northwest will be better positioned to anticipate, evaluate, and manage societal risks and impacts of ocean acidification. Moreover, the approach and techniques used in the project will be transferable to other place-based areas facing similar challenges.

This project is lead by Jan Newton, University of Washington, and Melissa Poe, University of Washington and NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center

What’s driving change in the Gulf of Maine? Taking steps to solve the mystery in the coastal belt

The Gulf of Maine may be near an ocean acidification tipping point and oceanographer David Townsend wants to know why. Townsend, of University of Maine, and collaborators will work to solve this mystery by compiling and analyzing decades of water quality data. Townsend and his team will look at long-term trends in water quality data and identify the culprit behind the Gulf of Maine’s sensitivity to acidification. “Understanding the drivers of acidification in this area is a crucial first step toward understanding the region’s vulnerability, and helping local fishermen and shellfish hatcheries develop adaptation strategies,” says Townsend, who will work with his collaborators to build a database of ocean chemistry and related information dating back to the 1980s.

New England’s coastal zone supports valuable wild harvest shellfisheries and aquaculture production, notes University of New Hampshire professor Joe Salisbury, who is working with Townsend and colleagues at the Northeast Regional Association for Coastal and Ocean Observing to unravel this mystery. The area is not only among those most vulnerable to ocean acidification, but is vital to New England’s economy. The goal is to help New England's vulnerable coastal communities and industries create more targeted and efficient approaches to adapt to this sea change.

This project is lead by Dave Townsend, University of Maine, in collaboration with Joe Salisbury, University of New Hampshire, and the Northeast Regional Association for Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems

Paving a Path for the Shellfish Industry to Adapt to Ocean Acidification

Shellfish growers in the Pacific Northwest have been feeling the impacts of ocean acidification for nearly a decade now and want to know how to keep their businesses thriving in the face of this change. Scientists at Oregon State University and the Pacific Shellfish Institute are working to make it easier for the shellfish industry and other stakeholders to identify potential pathways for adaptation to ocean acidification. Natural and social scientists are pooling their expertise to create tools to map which shellfish species and growing locations are most vulnerable to acidification, evaluate economic impacts of ocean acidification, quantify the costs of potential adaptations, and evaluate the options most likely to succeed in avoiding adverse consequences.

The team is interested in evaluating the costs and barriers to adaptation in order to identify strategies that are most likely to succeed. “Mapping hot-spots of ocean acidification hazards with shellfish growing operations will give them a sense of where the shellfish industry might be most affected by ocean acidification, when they will feel the effects, and how much is at stake,” Wrathall explains. With this information in hand, the group can then assess what each operation would gain in adapting by looking at challenges, feasibility, costs, and benefits of making a change to the operation. The novel approach applied in this new project will not only provide shellfish farmers in the Pacific Northwest with the tools they need now, but will also develop a tool set that other people around the globe can use to identify successful adaptation pathways moving forward.

This project is lead by David Wrathall, George Waldbusser, and David Kling of Oregon State University


Title image: New England's working waterfront at sunset Credit: NOAA Image one: Contemporary tribal canoes on Tatoosh Island, WA. Credit: NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Image two: Fishing boats at the Quileute Harbor Marina, the only port between Westport and Neah Bay, Washington Credit: Melissa Poe, University of Washington, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center Image three: Crab fishing gear sits in port in the Quileute Harbor after a delayed season opening. Credit: Melissa Poe, University of Washington, NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center Image four: Traditional tribal canoes pulled up on the beach during a Tribal Journey on the Olympic Coast, Washington Credit: NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

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