REVIEW OF THE
AND MONITORING PLAN
Committee on the Review of the National Ocean Acidification
Research and Monitoring Plan
Ocean Studies Board
Division on Earth and Life Studies
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Contract/Grant No. DG133R08CQ0062 and the National Science Foundation under Contract/Grant No. OCE-1144069. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF THE NATIONAL OCEAN ACIDIFICATION RESEARCH PLAN
GEORGE N. SOMERO, Chair, Stanford University, California
JAMES P. BARRY, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, California
ANDREW G. DICKSON, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, California
JEAN-PIERRE GATTUSO, CNRS-Pierre and Marie Curie University, France
MARION GEHLEN, Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de L’Environnement, France
JOAN (JOANIE) A. KLEYPAS, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Colorado
CHRIS LANGDON, University of Miami, RSMAS, Florida
CINDY LEE, Stony Brook University, New York
EDWARD L. MILES, University of Washington
JAMES SANCHIRICO, University of California, Davis
CLAUDIA MENGELT, Senior Program Officer
JESSICA DUTTON, Research Associate
HEATHER CHIARELLO, Senior Program Assistant
OCEAN STUDIES BOARD
ROBERT A. DUCE, Chair, Texas A&M University (retired), College Station, Texas
EDWARD A. BOYLE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
RITA R. COLWELL, University of Maryland, College Park
SARAH W. COOKSEY, State of Delaware, Dover
CORTIS K. COOPER, Chevron Corporation, San Ramon, California
JORGE E. CORREDOR, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
KEITH R. CRIDDLE, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau
JODY W. DEMING, University of Washington, Seattle
ROBERT HALLBERG, NOAA/GFDL and Princeton University, New Jersey
ROBERT A. HOLMAN, Oregon State University, Corvallis
KIHO KIM, American University, Washington, DC
BARBARA A. KNUTH, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
GEORGE I. MATSUMOTO, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, California
JOHN A. ORCUTT, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla
JAY S. PEARLMAN, The Boeing Company (retired), Port Angeles, Washington
STEVEN E. RAMBERG, Penn State Applied Research Lab, Washington, DC
ANDREW A. ROSENBERG, Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge, Massachusetts
DANIEL L. RUDNICK, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California
PETER L. TYACK, University of Saint Andrews, United Kingdom
DON WALSH, International Maritime Incorporated, Myrtle Point, Oregon
DAWN J. WRIGHT, Environmental Systems Research Institute, Redlands, California
JAMES A. YODER, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts
MARY (MISSY) H. FEELEY, ExxonMobil Exploration Company, Houston, Texas
SUSAN ROBERTS, Director
CLAUDIA MENGELT, Senior Program Officer
DEBORAH GLICKSON, Senior Program Officer
KIM WADDELL, Senior Program Officer
SHERRIE FORREST, Associate Program Officer
PAMELA LEWIS, Administrative Coordinator
JESSICA DUTTON, Research Associate
HEATHER CHIARELLO, Senior Program Assistant
Ocean acidification—the changes in carbonate chemistry and acidity (pH) of seawater resulting from entry of atmospheric CO2 into the ocean—is an inevitable consequence of the rapid rate of CO2 release into the atmosphere through anthropogenic activities like fossil fuel combustion. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are higher than they have been for at least 800,000 years, and the rate of release of CO2 is the greatest for at least the past 55 million years. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the middle of the 18th century, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen by ~40% and the pH of seawater has decreased by ~0.12 pH units, which corresponds to an approximately 30% rise in acidity. By the end of this century, models based on “business as usual” scenarios for CO2 release predict a further decrease in pH that would lead to an approximately 100-150% rise in ocean acidity relative to the mid-18th century. Models show a continuing fall in seawater pH over the coming few centuries (if not longer), even though with rising CO2 levels in seawater the capacity of the ocean to absorb additional CO2 is diminished.
The consequences of ocean acidification—which is sometimes referred to as “the other CO2 problem”—have received much less attention than CO2’s effects as a greenhouse gas. Whereas public acceptance of climate change is increasing rapidly, at the time of this writing polls indicate that less than ten percent of the U.S. public is even aware of the process of ocean acidification, much less concerned about its known or potential impacts. However, the effects of ocean acidification have become of increasing concern to a wide range of scientists over the past two decades.
Three major international conferences on ocean acidification have been held, the most recent occurring in September 2012, during the preparation of our report. Presentations at this meeting, in conjunction with a proliferation of papers in the peer-reviewed literature, make it clear that ocean acidification is a multi-faceted problem whose impacts range from the physical chemistry of seawater to socioeconomic issues linked to acidification’s effects on marine communities and fisheries. Whereas we have a deep understanding of the effects of CO2 entry on the carbonate chemistry of the sea, as investigations extend to increasingly complex phenomena—from effects on individual species to consequences for ecosystems, fisheries, and economic systems dependent on marine life—fewer conclusions and predictions can be stated with high assurance about the near- and longer-term consequences of ocean acidification. As we point out in this document, recent studies of the biological effects of acidification have yielded some dramatic “surprises”—discoveries of critical effects that were completely unanticipated. Because the science of ocean acidification is in such an early stage of development, many more “surprises” are sure to be revealed, including new facets of acidification’s effects on broad environmental and economic issues.
There is thus a well-recognized need—in the United States and internationally—for comprehensive programs that allow scientists and policy makers to predict the effects of ocean acidification on marine life, broadly defined, and on the social and economic systems that rely on a healthy ocean, whether for a source of protein (fisheries and aquaculture) or for physical protection (coral reef and shellfish systems that provide important barrier function against storms). This need has been recognized by Congress and many relevant Federal agencies for several years and appropriate planning efforts have been initiated. In 2009, Congress passed the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring (FOARAM) Act, which mandates the creation of an integrated, multi-agency National Program on Ocean Acidification. Included in the mandates of the FOARAM Act was a requirement for formation of an Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification (IWGOA) to develop a Strategic Plan for Federal Research and Monitoring of Ocean Acidification. Per the requirements of the FOARAM Act, our committee was created as a vehicle for providing a constructive review of this Strategic Plan.
In the present document we offer a broad set of suggestions for improving the IWGOA’s Strategic Draft Plan, which was released in March 2012, so as to enable a comprehensive, well-integrated, and cost-effective program to be evolved that can achieve the several mandates (Program Elements) found in the FOARAM Act. Our committee’s composition, which included expertise in seawater chemistry, marine ecology, physiology, socioeconomics, and policy-development, mirrors the breadth
of the Program Elements presented in the FOARAM Act and, therefore, in the Themes of the IWGOA’s Strategic Plan. The analyses we present in this report involve both ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ perspectives. In the former context, we have examined in depth the Strategic Plan’s specific strategies for addressing the seven individual Themes found in the Plan. In the latter context, we have attempted to offer helpful suggestions for how these interrelated Themes can better be coordinated, such that, for example, findings from the natural sciences can effectively inform decisions related to mitigation and adaptation efforts in the realm of the socioeconomic challenges that will arise from ocean acidification.
As chair of the review committee, I wish to express my deep appreciation for the enormous level of effort expended by the committee and the National Research Council Staff who assisted us in all phases of our analysis. In my four decades of serving as a university faculty member, I have never worked with a committee that was so informed, cooperative, prompt to complete their tasks, and collegial throughout the whole process. For me (and I think I can speak here for the entire committee) it was remarkably educational to take part in discussions that ranged from the fine details of measuring the pH of seawater to the complex and difficult-to-predict effects of acidification on fisheries and the US and global economies. I thank the committee for being such a remarkable set of mentors! Special praise and expression of gratitude is warranted by the NRC staff who worked closely with us through all phases of our activities. Dr. Claudia Mengelt, the Study Director; Dr. Jessica Dutton, Research Associate; and Ms. Heather Chiarello, Senior Program Assistant, always knew when and how best to help us out. Dr. Susan Roberts, Director of the Ocean Studies Board, was always available to offer assistance on any challenging issue where our committee needed guidance.
Our committee hopes that this document will assist the IWGOA and other relevant parties in developing a comprehensive National Program in Ocean Acidification that meets the expectations of the FOARAM Act. A successful Program will help to provide our nation and the broader international community with a more complete understanding of the problems posed by ocean acidification and, through this analysis, will allow formulation of mechanisms for mitigating and adapting to this rapidly developing change in the our oceans.
Following NRC policy, our report was reviewed by nine expert referees. We thank these referees for their helpful suggestions, which reflect a reading of our report by “fresh sets of eyes” and well-informed perspectives on the great many topics encompassed by ocean acidification.
This report was greatly enhanced by public input in advance and during the committee’s meeting. The committee would like to thank those who were available to answer questions during the public meeting and prepare public comments. Specifically, the committee would like to recognize the information and answers provided by Cyndy Chandler, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The written submissions and the public comments helped set the stage for fruitful discussions in the closed sessions that followed.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in their review of this report:
Ken Caldeira, Carnegie Institution of Washington (California)
Scott Doney, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (Massachusetts)
Ken Johnson, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (California)
Judith Kildow, The National Ocean Economics Program (California)
George Matsumoto, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (California)
Steve Murawski, University of South Florida
Hans-Otto Pörtner, Alfred Wegener Institute (Germany)
Norm Sleep (NAS), Stanford University (California)
Lisa Suatoni, Natural Resources Defense Council (New York)
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Andrew Solow, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, appointed by the Division on Earth and Life Studies, who was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.