Nav: Home

Ocean acidification: Finding new answers through National Science Foundation research grants

September 26, 2012

With increasing levels of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere and moving into marine systems, the world's oceans are becoming more acidic.

The oceans may be acidifying faster today than at anytime in the past 300 million years, scientists have found.

To address the concern for acidifying marine ecosystems, the National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded new grants totaling $12 million in its Ocean Acidification program.

The program is part of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) investment.

The awards, the second round in this program, are supported by NSF's Directorates for Geosciences and Biological Sciences, and Office of Polar Programs.

From tropical oceans to icy seas, the projects will foster research on the nature, extent and effects of ocean acidification on marine environments and organisms in the past, present and future.

"With this round of awards, NSF has an increasingly diverse portfolio of research projects on ocean acidification," says David Garrison, program director in NSF's Directorate for Geosciences and chair of NSF's Ocean Acidification Working Group.

"These scientists will make major contributions to understanding this serious environmental threat," says Garrison.

"We look forward to building on this effort over the next few years, and expect that ocean acidification research will be a major contribution to SEES efforts at NSF."

Ocean acidification affects marine ecosystems, organisms' life histories, ocean food webs and biogeochemical cycling, scientists have discovered.

The researchers believe there is a need to understand the chemistry of ocean acidification and its interplay with marine biochemical and physiological processes before Earth's seas become inhospitable to life as it is known today.

Animal species from pteropods--delicate, butterfly-like planktonic drifters--to hard corals are affected by ocean acidification. So, too, are the unseen microbes that fuel ocean productivity and influence the chemical functioning of ocean waters.

As the oceans become more acidic, the balance of molecules needed for shell-bearing organisms to manufacture shells and skeletons is altered.

The physiology of many marine species, from microbes to fish, may be affected. A myriad of chemical reactions and cycles are influenced by the pH, or acidity, of the oceans.

"The Ocean Acidification awards address how organisms detect carbon dioxide and levels of acidity, and regulate these variables in their cells and body fluids," says William Zamer, program director in NSF's Directorate for Biological Sciences.

"These projects include studies of whether populations of animals have the genetic capacity to adapt to ocean acidification. The findings will yield new insights about how a future more acidic ocean will affect marine life."

Has ocean life faced similar challenges in our planet's past?

Earth system history informs our understanding of the effects of ocean acidification in the present and the future, says Garrison.

For a true comprehension of how acidification will change the oceans, he says, we must integrate paleoecology with marine chemistry, physics, ecology and an understanding of the past environmental conditions on Earth.

Overall, Ocean Acidification grantees will ask questions such as will regional differences in marine chemistry and physics increase acidification? Are there complex interactions, cascades and bottlenecks that will emerge as the oceans acidify, and what are their ecosystem implications? And if current trends continue, how far-reaching will the changes be?

NSF 2012 Ocean Acidification awardees, their institutions and projects are:

Jess Adkins, California Institute of Technology: Ocean acidification: Collaborative research: Measuring the kinetics of CaCO3 dissolution in seawater using novel isotope labeling, laboratory experiments, and in situ experiments

William Balch, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences: Ocean acidification: Effects of ocean acidification on Emiliania huxleyi and Calanus finmarchicus; Insights into the oceanic alkalinity and biological carbon pumps

Joan Bernhard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Ocean acidification, hypoxia and warming: Experimental investigations into compounded effects of global change on benthic foraminifera

Robert Byrne, College of Marine Science, University of South Florida: Ocean acidification: Collaborative research: Investigation of seawater CO2 system thermodynamics under high pCO2 conditions

Anne Cohen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Toward predicting the impact of ocean acidification on net calcification by a broad range of coral reef ecosystems: Identifying patterns and underlying causes

Erik Cordes, Temple University: Ocean acidification: Physiological and genetic responses of the deep-water coral, Lophelia pertusa, to ongoing ocean acidification in the Gulf of Mexico

Robyn Hannigan, University of Massachusetts Boston: Ocean acidification: Effects on morphology and mineralogy in otoliths of larval reef fish

Donal Manahan, University of Southern California: Ocean acidification: Predicting "winners and losers" to ocean acidification--a physiological genomic study of genetically-determined variance during larval development

Figen Mekik, Grand Valley State University: Carbonate preservation in pelagic sediments: Developing a new aragonite preservation proxy

Bruce Menge, Oregon State University: Ocean acidification: Collaborative research: OMEGAS II - Linking ecological and organismal responses to the ocean acidification seascape in the California Current System

T. Aran Mooney, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Ocean acidification: Examining impacts on squid paralarval development, behavior, and survival

M. Brady Olson, WWU Shannon Point Marine Lab: Collaborative research: Ocean acidification: Impacts on copepod populations mediated by changes in prey quality

Mak Saito, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: Ocean acidification: The influence of ocean acidification and rising temperature on phytoplankton proteome composition

Martin Tresguerres, UCSD Scripps Inst of Oceanography: Ocean acidification: Physiological mechanisms for CO2-sensing and related intracellular signaling pathways in corals

Jonathan Wynn, University of South Florida: Ocean acidification in the Canada Basin: Roles of sea ice

James Zachos, University of California-Santa Cruz: Ocean acidification: Collaborative research: Establishing the magnitude of sea-surface acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

National Science Foundation

Related Ocean Acidification Articles:

Ocean acidification could impair the nitrogen-fixing ability of marine bacteria
While increased carbon dioxide levels theoretically boost the productivity of nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the world's oceans, because of its 'fertilizing' effect, a new study reveals how increasingly acidic seawater featuring higher levels of this gas can overwhelm these benefits, hampering the essential service these bacteria provide for marine life.
International team reports ocean acidification spreading rapidly in Arctic Ocean
Ocean acidification (OA) is spreading rapidly in the western Arctic Ocean in both area and depth, according to new interdisciplinary research reported in Nature Climate Change by a team of international collaborators, including University of Delaware professor Wei-Jun Cai.
Unexpected result: Ocean acidification can also promote shell formation
Fact: more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air also acidifies the oceans.
Ocean acidification to hit West Coast Dungeness crab fishery, new assessment shows
The acidification of the ocean expected as seawater absorbs increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will reverberate through the West Coast's marine food web, but not necessarily in the ways you might expect, new research shows.
Landmark global scale study reveals potential future impact of ocean acidification
Ocean acidification and the extent to which marine species are able to deal with low pH levels in the Earth's seas, could have a significant influence on shifting the distribution of marine animals in response to climate warming.
Ocean acidification study offers warnings for marine life, habitats
Acidification of the world's oceans could drive a cascading loss of biodiversity in marine habitats, according to research published today in Nature Climate Change.
New study shows ocean acidification accelerates erosion of coral reefs
Scientists studying naturally high carbon dioxide coral reefs in Papua New Guinea found that erosion of essential habitat is accelerated in these highly acidified waters, even as coral growth continues to slow.
Study finds increased ocean acidification due to human activities
Oceanographers from MIT and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution report that the northeast Pacific Ocean has absorbed an increasing amount of anthropogenic carbon dioxide over the last decade, at a rate that mirrors the increase of carbon dioxide emissions pumped into the atmosphere.
Ocean acidification threatens cod recruitment in the Atlantic
Increasing ocean acidification could double the mortality of newly hatched cod larvae.
First evidence of ocean acidification's impact on reproductive behavior in wild fish
Ocean acidification could have a dramatic impact on the reproductive behaviour of fish, a new international study shows.

Related Ocean Acidification Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...