Communicating Ocean Acidification; Problems, Solutions, and Shellfish

By Shandy Buckley, MBARI Intern — Case Study 1 provides a summary of the C-CAN ocean chemistry workshop, July 2011


The West Coast Shellfish industry is seeing negative changes in shellfish farming productivity, and ocean acidification is suspected to be the culprit. Scientists are seeking to understand both natural ecosystem variability and the impacts of anthropogenic changes on the acidity of the ocean. The Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) is working to bridge the communication gap between research and the application of marine science. By bringing both scientists and stakeholders into a network, a better and more applicable understanding of changing oceanic conditions can be gained.

Shellfish recruitment and growth are very susceptible to acidic waters (low pH). Low pH periods of several days are a naturally occurring process on the West Coast associated with upwelling season, but anthropogenic inputs of CO2 has exacerbated the natural affect on the aquaculture industry. Anthropogenic inputs to this system have decreased ocean pH by 0.1 over the last decade, and coincidently the aquaculture industry has suffered a decrease in shellfish larvae recruitment in recent years, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars to small coastal farmers (Feely et al, 2008, NOAA Ocean Acidification Steering Committee, 2010).

Better communication between stakeholders and scientists, and increased spatial and temporal data collection are called for by the NOAA Ocean Acidification Steering Committee (2010). Through MBARI I accessed data from two Ocean Acidification monitoring buoys located in the Northern Monterey Bay, and analyzed local interactions between pH and temperature parameters over a 2 months period. This temporal data was supplemented with data from a 2007 research cruise that spanned from Canada to Mexico. From these temporal and spatial data sets I was able to develop an algorithm to predict potential sea surface pH from satellite observed sea surface temperature was developed to aid shellfish farmers.

Read the entire report here.