IOOS: Ocean acidification

Posted: 03 May 2013

Integrated Ocean Observing System, May 2013. Video.


Since the start of the industrial revolution, the ocean has silently absorbed roughly 30% of the carbon dioxide that people generate through industry and agriculture.  Now ocean chemistry of the seawater is rapidly changing in a process known as ocean acidification. These changes in seawater chemistry affect animal growth, survival and behavior, and they are depleting the ocean of calcium carbonate, a nutrient vital for shellfish to build shells. Marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons – such as corals, oysters, clams, and mussels – can be affected by small changes in acidity. That’s important, because shelled organisms are essential throughout the marine food chain. They are also vital to our economy, as shellfish hatcheries on the brink of collapse just a few years ago, struggle to adapt.

The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System, or IOOS, is helping mitigate economic impacts with real-time data that signal the approach of acidified seawater one to two days before it arrives.  An early warning helps hatchery managers take action – such as shutting off intake valves or treating the water – to save crops.

Ocean acidification has the potential to fundamentally change the ocean, its habitats, food webs and marine life. The implications of this sea change to our environment and our economy are endless, and the current rate of change of ocean acidification is faster than any time on record.  We need to better understand what is happening so we can develop tools to help slow the rate of change.  Efforts like IOOS and NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program will help our nation begin to understand how to address this problem on a global scale and help reverse it.

Earth Day 2013 – Focusing on Ocean Acidification

Earth Day Calendar of Events – Every day, NOAA and the broader U.S. IOOS work to understand how our earth is changing, why it’s changing, and how communities across our nation can benefit from our 24/7 efforts.

In honor of Earth Day, we aim to showcase, over the course of the month, the immense value of these efforts to business mitigation of ocean acidification impacts.  The plan is tell the IOOS story by demonstrating regional contributions.

FY2012 U.S. IOOS Regional Association Ocean Acidificiation Monitoring Activities (pdf)