Ocean Acidification in Alaska

AOOS is coordinating a new “OA” Network

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 10.59.16 AMAOOS is in the process of launching the Alaska Ocean Acidification Network to help connect scientists and stakeholder communities. The Alaska network joins similar networks around the country, and the new website will be launched in June. Planned activities include public presentations by researchers, a State of the Science workshop in November, and the development of resources such as an expertise database, best practices for monitoring, and maps.

You can join the OA Network list serve to receive monthly updates on the latest monitoring, research findings, articles, and events. Please contact Network Coordinator Darcy Dugan, dugan@aoos.org, with questions.

Alaska OA Network Goals

  • Engage with stakeholders to expand the understanding of OA processes and consequences in Alaska, and potential adaptation and mitigation actions. This will involve providing relevant information to, and hearing from, the fishing and aquaculture industries, policy makers, coastal communities and the general public.
  • Work with scientists and stakeholder communities to identify knowledge gaps and information needs, and recommend regional priorities for monitoring, research & modeling in both the natural and social sciences.
  • Share best practices for monitoring as well promote the development of synthesis materials, and devise strategies to ensure funding is available to support these efforts.
  • Promote data sharing and act as a resource hub for OA information in Alaska for researchers, stakeholders and the general public, leveraging the AOOS data portal as needed.




Interim Steering Committee Members

  • Alex Harper (NOAA OA Program)
  • Bob Foy (NOAA AFSC)
  • Davin Holen (AK Center for Climate Assessment & Policy)
  • Gary Freitag (AK Sea Grant – Ketchikan)
  • Hannah Heimbuch (AK Marine Conservation Council)
  • Jeff Hetrick (Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery)
  • John Kiser (AK Shellfish Growers Assoc.)
  • Melissa Good (AK Sea Grant – Unalaska)
  • Mia Heavener (Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium)
  • Mike Miller (Sitka Tribe/IPCoMM)
  • Molly McCammon (AOOS)
  • Natalie Monacci and Jeremy Mathis (UAF OA Research Center)
  • Ruth Christiansen and Mark Gleason (Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers)

Why we’re interested in ocean acidification

Ocean acidification sensors were added to the GAK1 buoy near Seward, which has been recording parameters such as temperature and salinity for over 30 years.

The GAK1 buoy near Seward has been recording parameters such as temperature and salinity for over 30 years. The buoy now includes sensors for ocean acidification, helping build a timeline of observed data in the Gulf of Alaska.

Scientists estimate that the ocean is 25% more acidic today than it was 300 years ago, traceable to increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 from fossil-fuel combustion and land-use change. Almost half of the anthropogenic CO2 remains in the atmosphere, but the ocean absorbs most of the rest, lowering pH and thus increasing the acidity of seawater.

Alaska is particularly susceptible to ocean acidification (OA) due to its relatively shallow shelf seas, cold water, high rates of primary production and glacial melt. The corrosive properties of water with lower pH levels can be harmful to organisms that form protective shells, such as plankton, oysters, clams and corals, and threaten their survival and reproduction. Livelihoods that rely on the health of these lower food chain creatures, including subsistence and commercial fishing, are vulnerable as the water continues to change.

More precise monitoring and accurate forecasts of corrosive plumes of seawater can help Alaskans prepare for the future. AOOS is committed to working with a coalition of partners to fund, deploy and maintain buoys and moorings that monitor ocean pH.

December 2014 Workshop

AOOS co-hosted an ocean acidification workshop in Anchorage on Dec 1-2. The workshop brought together interested individuals to hear the latest research, policy implications, community perspectives, and potential impacts along Alaska’s coast and oceans. Learn more.

Monitoring for OA

Understanding and coping with changes to fundamental ocean chemistry, and impacted biological resources requires a multifaceted approach.

Dr. Jeremy Mathis, the lead scientist on the project, is with NOAA PMEL and also runs the UAF Ocean Acidification Research Program.

Dr. Jeremy Mathis, the lead scientist on the project, is with NOAA PMEL and also runs the UAF Ocean Acidification Research Program.

AOOS is part of a project that :

  • Contributes to a consortium of agencies supporting the operation and maintenance of an OA buoy network. Partners include the National Science Foundation, NOAA the North Pacific Research Board, and the State of Alaska.
  • Continues and expands a multi-year series of semi-annual physical, biological and chemical sampling of oceanographic parameters along transects in Prince William Sound and in the Gulf of Alaska along the Seward Line
  • Collects real-time carbonate chemistry data from water entering the Alutiiq Pride Shellfish Hatchery in Seward
  • Supports the development of a forecast model of the carbonate system in the northern Gulf of Alaska, which will be validated with Seward Line data

In the spring of 2014, Dr. Mathis worked with Dr. Wiley Evans from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Ocean Acidification Research Center to deploy two surface wave gliders, resembling yellow surfboards. The gliders cruised around Prince William Sound as part of a five-month monitoring program to measure ocean acidification. Simultaneously, state-of-the-art instrumentation installed on a glacier tour boat monitored glacial runoff while an underwater autonomous glider patrolled beneath the surface looking for plumes of water that could be harmful to some species. The project was funded mostly by the NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program in partnership with AOOS.

What we’re learning and producing

Dr. Wiley Evans with a surface wave glider, ready to load onboard, and (right) wave glider deployed.

Dr. Wiley Evans with a surface wave glider, ready to load onboard, and (right) wave glider deployed.

We have now monitored and collected ocean acidification data along the Seward Line for nine years, the minimum necessary to capture definitive changes in ocean carbonate chemistry. These data, plus data from the nearby OA buoy, are helping us to understand the seasonal dynamics of carbonate chemistry over the Gulf of Alaska shelf and are essential to the development of an OA predictive model for this region. Field observations of ocean acidification in the Gulf of Alaska have shown a great deal of variability in space and time.

In Southeast Alaska, researchers are using OA buoy data to determine how much the fluctuations in ocean chemistry are due to the seasonal flux of fresh water versus the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The Bering Sea buoy is the only ice-covered location, and the site is seasonally occupied by a service buoy between May and October. The data helps us understand the strength of coastal influences and open ocean processes.



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