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XPRIZE Big Ocean Button Challenge – vote for the best app

The Big Ocean Button Challenge sponsored by the XPRIZE Ocean Initiative, is an app competition to advance development in ocean data sets in categories such as Fishing, Shipping and Trade, Ocean Acidification, Public Safety and Exploration. XPRIZE has received 20 submissions that are now competing for $100,000 in prizes.

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Ocean acidification more rapid in coastal oceans

New research under the joint NCCOS Competitive Research Program and NOAA Ocean Acidification Program finds the combined effects of anthropogenic and biological carbon dioxide (CO2) inputs may lead to more rapid acidification in Chesapeake Bay and other coastal water compared to the open ocean. The results indicate that eutrophication can exacerbate ocean acidification (OA) where animal and plant respiration contributes a far greater acidification in the coastal oceans relative to the open ocean.

The study, led by Dr. Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware, is part of a NCCOS-sponsored project team studying interactions between OA and eutrophication in estuaries. “The study shows for the first time that the oxidation of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from the bottom waters could be a major contributor to lower pH in coastal oceans and may lead to more rapid acidification in coastal waters compared to the open ocean” says Dr. Cai, in the online University of Delaware’s UDaily. Increased acidification can dissolve the calcium carbonate in the shells of valuable clams, oysters, and certain plankton and lead to poor acid buffering capacity of the water.

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Exposure history determines the response of the orange cup coral (Balanophyllia elegans) to ocean acidification

Humans are drastically changing the planet by burning fossil fuels that release CO2 into the atmosphere, which comes into equilibrium with the ocean and lowers the pH — this phenomenon is known as ocean acidification. As a result, there is a pressing need to understand how species respond to these changes in the ocean. Researchers have studied this issue by exposing marine organisms to the low pH levels which are predicted for the future, and observing how it impacts traits such as survival, calcification, physiology, etc. Often the results are grim; many calcifying organisms (calcium skeleton builders such as corals and snails) lose their ability to calcify under low pH conditions and are unable to continue growth. But what if we weren’t getting the full story from these studies? Many researchers extrapolate the response of one population to its entire range, which may be inaccurate if the species spans a diverse geographic range and experiences variable environmental conditions.

Continue reading ‘Exposure history determines the response of the orange cup coral (Balanophyllia elegans) to ocean acidification’

All aboard the carbon cruise

University of Miami students and researchers are blogging during a month-long expedition in the Gulf of Mexico to study ocean acidification.

An interdisciplinary and international team of scientists and students set sail aboard the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) ship Ronald H. Brown on Tuesday, July 18 for a 36-day expedition in the Gulf of Mexico.

The researchers – including graduate student Joletta Silva and two recent alumni, Emma Pontes and Leah Chomiak, from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science – represent institutions from the United States, Mexico and Cuba.

The expedition, entitled the Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems and Carbon Cruise (GOMECC), is the third of such research cruises led by NOAA AOML (Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory) for its Ocean Acidification Program to better understand how ocean chemistry along U.S. coasts is changing in response to ocean acidification. This cruise is the first that will explore Mexican waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and is considered to be the most comprehensive ocean acidification cruise to date in the region.

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Eleven awesome actions on acidification in June

Everywhere we turned this month, we saw action on ocean acidification! The issue got lots of attention internationally at the United Nations and as part of World Oceans Day, nationally in the halls of Congress and across the nation by U.S. city mayors. Here’s a roundup.

(1) The United Nations Oceans Conference hosted a partnership dialogue on minimizing and addressing ocean acidification. Participants introduced a number of voluntary commitments designed to enhance scientific partnership, knowledge exchange and national efforts around ocean acidification, in support of U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 14.3.

(2) The International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification (OA Alliance) hosted an official side event at the U.N. Oceans Conference to discuss how U.N. nations can take action as part of the Alliance, by investing in research and monitoring, educating the public and reducing carbon emissions causing acidification.

(3) Tuvalu became an official member of the International OA Alliance. Here, Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga of Tuvalu speaks at the full Oceans Conference.

(4) John Laird, California’s Secretary for Natural Resources, introduced the International OA Alliance during the formal proceedings at the Oceans Conference. He shared his thoughts on the importance of acting in an op-ed.

Continue reading ‘Eleven awesome actions on acidification in June’

Ocean acidification: Key concepts from the past

Past environmental change, based on Earth’s natural variability, can inform scientists how humans have influenced climate and the environment on a global scale. One of the most well-publicized facets of human-induced climate change is the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which has sharply increased since the Industrial Revolution. Only within the last decade have scientists begun to characterize the ecological consequences of increased carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans.

When carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves in the oceans, a number of chemical changes occur and seawater becomes more acidic. This process is called ocean acidification (OA). This shift creates conditions that make it difficult for marine animals with shells (e.g. corals, clams, oysters, and snails) to build their skeletons. While there are many studies that demonstrate the negative effects of ocean acidification on individual species, it is much more difficult, time consuming, and costly to conduct experiments on an entire marine ecosystem scale. However, we can look to the past: the fossil record serves as an ideal natural laboratory for studying large-scale impacts of ocean acidification on ecosystems over time.

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The hunt for a super coral: can cold-water corals adapt to ocean acidification?

When most people think of a coral reef they are imagining a sunny tropical beach, but many coral species are actually found in the dark, cold waters of the deep sea. These corals, commonly known as cold-water corals due to their preference for low temperatures, form beautiful ecosystems that are teeming with life. One of the largest threats to these slow-growing and fragile ecosystems is ocean acidification, the gradual reduction in the pH of our oceans caused by the excess carbon dioxide humans emit into the atmosphere. By the year 2100, it is expected that over 70% of stony corals in the deep sea will live in waters that are so acidic that they may corrode corals and make it difficult or even impossible for them to form hard skeletons.

In a previous publication scientists from Marine Conservation Institute and Temple University showed that cold-water corals in different ocean basins had completely opposite responses to ocean acidification, suggesting some populations may be much more resilient to climate change. What about individual corals within a population – could they also exhibit different responses? Enter the hunt for a ‘super coral’, corals with a genetic makeup that render them more resilient to ocean acidification. In an increasingly acidic ocean super corals would have higher survival and reproductive rates, and over many generations would comprise an increasingly large portion of the population. If these super corals already exist in the deep sea, there is a chance that cold-water coral populations may be able to adapt quickly enough to survive in the face of climate change.

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