Ocean Acidification

Changing Ocean Conditions

Changing ocean conditions are affecting marine ecosystems and resources, leading to shifts in marine productivity, biodiversity, community composition, and ecosystem structure. Understanding how ocean conditions influence the Earth's climate and monitoring changes in ocean conditions are key to predicting climate change stressors and developing strategies to enhance resilience.

Ocean Acidification

The ocean chemistry of seawater is rapidly changing in a process known as ocean acidification, which is caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These changes in seawater chemistry affect animal growth, survival and behavior, and they are depleting the ocean of calcium carbonate, a nutrient vital for shellfish to build shells. Marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons – such as corals, oysters, clams, and mussels – can be affected by small changes in acidity. Shelled organisms are essential in the marine food chain. Understanding the drivers that alter ocean chemistry is fundamental to the long-term health and sustainability of our ocean resources.

OSU's Burke Hales developed the Burkolator, which measures dissolved carbon dioxide and total carbon dioxide in seawater. In 2020, Burkolator stations were located in Seward, AK, Shelton, WA; Tillamook, OR; and Tomales Bay and Carlsbad, CA - all shellfish farms. The U.S. IOOS’ Ocean Technology Transition Project, in collaboration with NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program, supports ocean acidification sensor development and applications to provide information about ocean acidification for the protection of the shellfish industry. PMEL is a key partner in the project.

A study was conducted to evaluate the interactive effects of temperature, ocean acidification, oil pollution, and prey quality on the growth, morphometric condition, and lipid and fatty acid composition of Alaska's commercially important fish stocks.