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Proposed Initiatives - Ocean Acidification

What is Ocean Acidification?

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been increasing steadily for the past 150 years, since the onset of the industrial revolution. The world's oceans absorb 50% of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans, and this absorption is causing a reduction in surface ocean pH, or ocean acidification (OA).  Over the next century, OA is expected to reduce surface ocean pH by 0.3 – 0.5 units, faster than in the past 650,000 years.  A growing number of laboratory experiments now demonstrate that OA adversely affects many marine organisms, especially organisms that construct their shell material from calcium carbonate. In particular, OA has been shown to hamper the ability of reef-building corals and reef-cementing algae to calcify, thereby affecting their growth and accretion and making the reef more vulnerable to erosion. By mid-century, coral reefs may erode faster than they can be rebuilt potentially making them less resilient to other environmental stresses (e.g., disease, bleaching). This could compromise the long-term viability of these ecosystems, impacting thousands of species that depend on the reef habitat. 

How is CSCOR addressing this issue?

Numerous NOAA mandates such as the Coral Reef Conservation Act, Magnuson-Stevens Act, and Endangered Species Act require NOAA to respond to this pressing ecosystem threat but we need more comprehensive and precise information about OA to respond appropriately.  To increase our understanding of the impacts of OA on coastal ecosystems, our Ocean Acidification initiative proposes to focus competitive grants towards research on the physiological effects of OA on vulnerable species, development of models to predict impacts of OA on ecosystems, and regional assessments and synthesis.  CSCOR is proposing to coordinate activities on a regional basis, integrate with other elements of the wider NOAA Ocean Acidification initiative, and encourage federal and academic partnerships to leverage NOAA capabilities.  The physiological studies will improve understanding of the effects of OA on benthic calcifiers such as corals, molluscs, and echinoderms, as well as shelled phytoplankton and zooplankton.  In addition,ecosystem modeling studies will link to proposed geochemical and biological trophic level modeling efforts proposed by other NOAA offices. 

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