in studies of natural CO2 seeps where sharp pH gradients exist across an ecosystem (Fabricius et al., 2011). Effects of decreasing pH on coral reefs are likely to be amplified by influences of additional stressors such as increases in water temperature (Anthony et al., 2008) or run-off. Coral reefs are not only important in supporting healthy fisheries (Jones et al., 2004) but also support a vital tourist industry and can serve as important physical barriers to reduce the effects of storms on coastal communities.
In summary, the magnitude and rate of change in pH and the marine carbonate system and the likelihood that this change—in conjunction with climate change and other human impacts on the ocean—will have wide-ranging biological and socioeconomic effects argue for a comprehensive and integrated program to broaden our understanding of the scope of ocean acidification and its potential consequences for ocean ecosystems and society. The program’s purview needs to encompass such diverse activities as monitoring ongoing changes in carbonate chemistry and pH of seawater as well as associated changes in marine life; elucidating the fundamental physiological effects of acidification on diverse marine species, ranging from primary producers to animals higher in the trophic web; analyzing and predicting—with assistance from well-designed models—how ecosystems will change under acidification (and climate change); and predicting the socioeconomic consequences of acidification and how these impacts can most effectively be prevented or ameliorated. Only a broad and closely coordinated research and monitoring program supported by multiple federal agencies and that interacts effectively with relevant international programs will be able to deal with these complex and interacting facets of ocean acidification in a comprehensive and cost-effective manner.
Congress recognized the potential seriousness of the ocean acidification issue several years ago and mandated that the issue receive sufficient study to enable the development of an effective research and monitoring program. In the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (PL 109-479 sec 701), Congress asked the NRC to conduct a comprehensive study on ocean acidification. The resulting report (Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean [NRC, 2010]) summarized the latest scientific understanding of the issue and described the necessary elements of a national ocean acidification program (NRC, 2010).
While the NRC 2010 study leading to this report was under way, Congress in 2009 passed the Federal Ocean Acidification Research And Monitoring (FOARAM) Act (as part of PL 111-11). In October 2009, as man-