NOAA's Alaska Ocean Acidification Research Plan for FY18-FY20
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory collaborate to form the Alaska Ocean Acidification (OA) Enterprise. This collaboration combines the scientific disciplines of chemical and biological oceanography, fish and crab physiology, and population and bioeconomic modeling. This report describes proposed research pending support from the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program.
Coastal regions around Alaska are experiencing the most rapid and extensive onset of 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 Alaska 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. The average processed value of Alaska fisheries was $4.5 billion per year from 2011 to 2015 (Fissel et al. 2016, tables 30-31). 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 Alaska species most likely to be affected by OA and monitoring ocean conditions in their habitats (Sigler et al. 2008, 2015). We prioritize commercially important calcareous species (crab) because of their economic value and because initial studies have shown that these species are likely to suffer direct effects of decreased pH and reduced CaCO3 availability. We also study commercially important fish species to screen for early life history effects and ecosystem effects mediated by prey availability. Coldwater corals are our third research priority because of the role they play as biogenic habitat for marine organisms such as commercially important rockfish species. Population modeling research is critical to put our experimental results in the context of stock and ecosystem level vulnerability to inform us about the economic impacts to coastal communities. Lastly, to inform our experimental and predictive modeling research, it is necessary to monitor carbonate chemistry in Alaska at informative spatial and temporal scales.