“At least we know what we don’t know at this point,” said Jeremy Mathis, director of the Arctic Research Program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“There isn’t going to be one magic bullet,” Mathis said. “I don’t have the answer. We don’t know how we are going to adapt.”
What Mathis and other speakers at the workshop are aiming to do is to educate the public on the processes and consequences of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and northern societies that depend on them.
There is a need, said Mathis, to implement adaptation strategies that address all aspects of Arctic change, including ocean acidification, tailored to local and societal needs, and to develop strategies that will allow communities to be successful in the future.
“We have three options,” he said. “We can mitigate, we can adapt, or we can suffer. We can do something now or deal with the consequences later on.”
Acidity in the ocean is measured in terms of pH (potential of hydrogen) on a scale from 0 to 14. The level of pH tells how acidic or alkaline a substance is. The more acidic the solution, the lower the pH. More alkaline solutions have higher pH. Substances that aren’t acidic or alkaline – neutral solutions- usually have a pH of 7.
Ocean acidification refers to a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Ocean acidification affects many species, including pteropods, small calcifying (or shelled) organisms that live as zooplankton in the water column and are an important prey species for many fish.
Researchers at NOAA’s Kodiak laboratory, led by Bob Foy, are doing extensive research on the physiological response of crab to ocean acidification, and the impact of ocean acidification on different life stages of the crab, including embryo, larvae and juveniles.
Studies have shown that in general crab survival decreased at every life stage when crab were exposed to lower pH water.
The Alaska Fisheries Science Center crab scientists at Kodiak and Bering Sea Fisheries Research Foundation have worked cooperatively since 2004 on research relative to Bering Sea king, snow and southern Tanner crab surveys, biology and assessment. Learn more about ocean acidification and its biological impacts at http://www.aoos.org/alaska-ocean-acidification-network/