#OHCO2 What? New directions at the Ocean in a High-CO2 World Meeting

Posted on EPOCA: 9 Nov 2012 — A summary of discussion at the Oceans in a High CO2 World Conference includes highlights of the C-CAN-sponsored OA Monitoring Roundtable

 Five hundred and forty participants from 37 countries convened in Monterey, California this September for the third Ocean in a High-CO2 World Symposium. Presentations focused chiefly on ocean acidification (OA) and its interactions with other environmental stressors, a logical outgrowth of prior Symposiums (see “Prior Symposiums” box). But many other things were new in this meeting. It was much larger and topically broader than before, warranting parallel sessions. In addition, many scientists (at all career levels!) embraced social media to discuss meeting highlights on the side. Several overview speakers at the Symposium framed our knowledge and confidence about OA relative to time.

Early on, the oceanographic community felt confident, despite limited knowledge, that OA represented a clear stressor for specific marine organisms (Figure 1). As our knowledge grew, nuanced responses became apparent as conflicting experimental results emerged. Our confidence in our understanding was shaken. Symposium speakers suggested that prior to this meeting, we were somewhere in the “valley” of Figure 1. But with more time and knowledge, our confidence in our ability to predict OA’s impacts on organisms and ecosystems will grow. We will be able to incorporate understanding of mechanistic responses and thresholds, as well as uncertainties, into projections. This will lead to a long-term development of confidence that grows steadily as the science matures. This year’s Monterey Symposium contributed a great deal to the maturation of OA science and the long-term increase in our knowledge and confidence about OA. Building on the two previous Symposiums, the meeting organizers and co-sponsors for this year’s third Symposium designed the meeting to explore the current state of ocean acidification science in a multi-stressor context (Figure 2). Plenaries, which are archived online, explored the overall knowledge context into which this year’s presentations would fit by reviewing OA science history; physiological and evolutionary means for adjusting to ocean acidification and other stressors; OA’s interaction with other Earth system processes, now and in the past; ecosystem-level consequences of OA; and links between OA and the human system such as economics and policy. Parallel sessions then explored the details surrounding these topics with oral presentations and posters. Abstracts for all presentations are available online. Fully half of the presentations focused on organismal responses, with the other half focusing on other aspects of OA (Figure 3). These studies examined the full range of organism types (Figure 4).

This Symposium also specifically promoted interactions among scientists and communicators. Several activities were designed by meeting co-sponsor COMPASS (Communication Partnership for Science and the Sea) to acquaint scientists and journalists. During COMPASS’s communications workshop before the Symposium, 23 OA researchers were coached on how to communicate better with nonscientists via activities such as role-play interviews with senior science journalists. Attendees were also persuaded to join Twitter, which helped broaden the dialogue about Symposium activities and science (#OHCO2W) to interested listeners who weren’t even in Monterey. COMPASS also hosted a panel discussion and an icebreaker event to promote discussion among the 20 Media Fellows and other Symposium attendees about research directions and interesting results.

Prior Ocean in a High CO2 World Symposiums
The multi-stressor perspective of this year’s third Symposium reflected a significant evolution in thinking since the first Symposium in 2004. Initially, scientists discussed the ocean CO2 uptake that was mitigating climate change. Throughout the 2004 meeting, concern grew about the chemical and biological consequences of anthropogenic CO2 uptake by the ocean. The second Symposium in 2008 focused specifically on OA and emphasized the need for communicating about OA with social scientists and policymakers. Concerned scientists summarized what was known and outlined future goals in the Monaco Declaration in 2009.

The Monaco Declaration laid out four goals after the 2008 (second) Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World: 1) Promote research on ocean acidification. 2) Build links between economists and scientists. 3) Help improve communication between policymakers and scientists. 4) Prevent severe damages from ocean acidification by developing plans to cut emissions. The third OHCO2W meeting, just concluded in Monterey, CA, contributed strongly to goals 1 and 3.

Side events at the Ocean in a High-CO2 World Symposium within coral reef ecosystems

NOAA OAP funded scientists’ discussion 
S. Cooley, OCB
On Monday evening, the NOAA OA Program (OAP) hosted an open 90-minute discussion for OAP-funded scientists. Scientists from NOAA labs as well as from the academic research community attended to put faces with names and to talk about the main aims of ongoing research. The discussion identified complementary areas among research projects going on now, including the new projects just funded by the recent NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) grants (with OAP resources).
Coral Reef OA Monitoring Portfolio 
Dwight Gledhill, NOAA OAP
On Tuesday evening, a small group convened to discuss the outcomes of the August workshop on developing the Coral Reef Ocean Acidification Monitoring Portfolio sponsored by the NOAA OA program, the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program, and the National Coral Reef Institute at the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center. This workshop sought to define a suite of indices to include as part of long-term coral reef monitoring efforts most valuable for discerning specific attribution of changes in coral reef ecosystems in response to ocean acidification. The workshop identified a preliminary listing of high-level strategic indices around which a coral reef observing network would ideally be geared. These indices would be derived from a suite of not only biogeochemical, but also ecological measures.  The changing status of these indices over time would serve to aid in assigning specific attribution to ocean acidification, although it was recognized that there will likely be multiple factors contributing to the observed changes.  These indices addressed five thematic focus areas:
1. Effects of OA on coral reef water chemistry
2. Effects of OA on coral reef community metabolism
3. Effects of OA on coral reef organisms
4. Effects of OA on coral reef ecosystem biodiversity
5. Effects of OA on coral reef dissolution and bioerosion
The final workshop outcomes are intended to inform national and international long-term OA monitoring efforts within coral reef ecosystems.  The Town Hall offered the participants an opportunity to vet the preliminary indices that have been proposed and to contribute additional input to the final document report.
C-CAN lunch 
Andrew Dickson, UC San Diego;
Diane Pleschner-Steele, C-CAN
One of the side events affiliated with the meeting was a lunchtime panel on Wednesday (September 26th) sponsored by C-CAN (the California Current Acidification Network) together with the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. The room was crowded (possibly because of the lunch provided) and the session comprised brief presentations by panel members (Andrew Dickson, UC San Diego; Libby Jewett, NOAA; and Jean-Pierre Gattuso, LOV, Villefranche) followed by questions and comments from the audience (moderated by Jan Newton, U Washington). The focus of the presentations and discussions was on the practicalities of planning and implementing an effective ocean acidification observing network.

Andrew Dickson described the work of the C-CAN group (an ad hoc regional collaboration of academic scientists, commercial fishing and aquaculture interests together with state and federal resource managers) who came together in an effort to better understand the drivers of ocean acidification along the U.S. West Coast, and its likely impacts on organisms along the coast (see http://c-can.msi.ucsb.edu). A key problem identified by C-CAN was that most current carbon chemistry data along the U.S. West Coast are unsuitable for the needs of C-CAN stakeholders. For example, the carbon chemistry is often not measured at locations that coincide with biological studies and existing measurements are not of uniform quality. The immediate goal is therefore to establish a network of observations along the U.S. West Coast that can provide a picture of what is happening (with regard to the CO2 system) in the locations where the organisms of interest are living. This will better inform biological studies, and could enable improved management practices.

Sarah Cooley, OCB Newsletter, Fall 2012, pp. 13-17. Full article.