West coast ocean acidification action plan

Developed by the West Coast Ocean Acidification Task Force

I. Introduction

Anthropogenic release of carbon dioxide (CO2) has resulted in a large increase of CO2 in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution. Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have resulted in warmer air and water temperatures, with cascading effects on winds, precipitation, sea level, and ocean circulation, and additionally, have altered ocean chemistry. Although the world’s oceans have served as a sink for up to 30% of all anthropogenic CO2 produced since the Industrial Revolution, this overload of atmospheric carbon dioxide is slowly changing ocean chemistry by increasing the dissolved carbon dioxide concentration in seawater. This chemical reaction reduces seawater pH and the concentration of carbonate ions through a process called ‘ocean acidification’. The predicted direct adverse reactions as a result of lower pH in seawater include: increased difficulty for CaCO3 forming organisms, such as corals, some invertebrates and some plankton, to produce and maintain their calcium carbonate shells; mobility, growth and reproductive problems associated with increased carbon dioxide levels in internal fluids in fish and other energetic species; negative changes to photosynthesis rates in certain organisms; acoustical disruptions from reduced sound absorption in seawater; and a disruption of critical olfactory cues in fish.

Recognizing that ocean acidification could have significant ramifications for local ecosystems, the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Sanctuary Advisory Council Conservation Working Group developed a report entitled Ocean Acidification and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Cause, effect, and response in the fall of 2008. The report gives an overview of ocean acidification, describes the potential impacts, and recommends action by staff and stakeholders. After the report was adopted by the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, the other four sanctuary advisory councils on the west coast adopted resolutions recommending that the west coast sanctuaries recognize the importance of ocean acidification at each site, and, with the help of the West Coast Regional Office, take a coordinated approach to addressing ocean acidification issues. By January 2010, all 13 sanctuaries within the system had adopted resolutions concerning ocean acidification.

As a result of the recommendations from the sanctuary advisory council resolutions, The West Coast Regional Office of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries created a West Coast Ocean Acidification Task Force to take action on the resolutions. The task force includes one staff member from each of the five west coast national marine sanctuaries across all of the major program areas, an advisory council representative, and staff from NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s (OAR) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and National Ocean Service’s (NOS) National Center for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS). The task force met in April 2010, and agreed to develop a regional action plan on ocean acidification.

C-CAN: California Current Acidification Network, The Action Plan.

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OA-ICC Highlights

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