NOAA’s Alaska Ocean Acidification Research Plan for FY15-FY17
Coastal regions around Alaska are experiencing the most rapid and extensive onset of ocean acidification (OA) compared to anywhere else in the United States. By integrating observational data with species response studies, OA forecast models, and human impact assessments, it has been determined that Alaskan coastal communities and the vast fisheries that support them, have varying degrees of vulnerability to OA, ranging from moderate to severe. Areas that are most vulnerable are located in regions where fisheries are vital for the state and national economy, providing over $3 billion annually to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Even a relatively small decline in one or more of the fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska or Bering Sea could have cascading economic impacts that could dwarf the combined impacts of other regions around the Nation.
Our research focuses on commercially and ecologically important Alaskan species most likely to be affected by OA, especially larval and juvenile stages. Commercially important calcareous species (crab) are our first priority because of their economic value and because these species are likely to suffer direct effects of reduced CaCO3 availability. Our second priority is commercially important fish species; this research will screen for early life history effects and effects mediated by prey. Third priority is coldwater corals whose ecological importance includes sheltering marine organisms (e.g., rockfish), providing focal areas for foraging, and increasing the biodiversity of seafloor habitats.
In FY15-FY17, studies that continue the crab, fish, modeling, coldwater coral, and ocean monitoring research are proposed (Table 1). The proposed crab research will continue evaluating commercially important crab species with different life histories and habitats, which may affect their susceptibility to OA (some inhabit corrosive water, others do not). Results of the crab experiments will be incorporated into bioeconomic models to forecast the effect of OA on future crab abundance. The proposed fish research also will continue to evaluate fish species with different life history strategies and habitats. Like crab, differences in life history may affect susceptibility to OA. The finfish proposal will focus on the behavioral and sensory effects of OA. A letter of intent (LOI) proposes to expand finfish to study the interactive and cumulative effects of OA on recruitment of walleye pollock. The coral research will shift gears from a mineralogy catalog and risk assessment of Alaska corals and sponges (nearly complete) to (in a LOI) studying physiological effects of OA on corals held in the laboratory. The modeling research will expand from bioeconomic models of crab species to begin population dynamic models of finfish species starting with walleye pollock. The ocean monitoring is proposed to continue with funding support requested by NOAA OAP through an LOI. The deliverables and requested budget for FY15-FY17 OA research are listed in Table 1. All deliverable products will be prepared for publication. All studies address themes highlighted in the NOAA regional OA implementation plans that have been developed by the NOAA OA implementation team.