Ocean Acidification Research

Researchers around the Gulf of Mexico are working to understand how an increase in the ocean’s acidity is impacting habitats and the animals that call them home. Here are some ongoing projects being conducted by GCAN and/or its members.

Ocean Acidification on a Crossroad — Enhanced Respiration, Upwelling, Increasing Atmospheric CO2, and their interactions in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico

Humans have had a significant influence on the global ocean carbonate chemistry via fossil-fuel combustion, deforestation and cement production over the past 250 years. In the coastal ocean however, other forcings such as continental nutrient input and physical oceanographic changes can have stronger impacts on both the magnitude of short-term variation and long-term trend in carbonate parameters (pH, carbonate saturation states).

Among the NOAA-designated “Large Marine Ecosystems,” the OA conditions in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) remain poorly understood despite its ecological and economic significance.

In the northwestern GOM (nwGOM), a decadal acidification has been observed in the shelf-slope region with the human-induced factors contributing to a smaller fraction of CO2 accumulation than that from metabolic production.

This acidification effect is significantly greater than that in other tropical and subtropical areas. Unfortunately, whether the observed OA in this region represents a short-term phenomenon or a long-term trend is unknown.

The Project: Collaborators from NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, Texas A&M University, GCOOS and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are investigating spatial and temporal changes in carbonate chemistry signals in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico for the optimization of ocean acidification monitoring effort in this region. They will use a combination of ship-based surveys, wave glider operations and in-situ sensor deployments to collect seawater physical and chemical data for next-step modeling exercises.

A ship-based survey will collect both underway data (at sea surface) and those at discrete depths from the shelf to the upper slope of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico and a Liquid Robotics wave glider that carries sensors for CO2, pH, and fluorescence measurements will be used to survey sea surface conditions for prolonged periods of time.

Funding: The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) through the Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) and the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS).

Status: In progress

GCAN/SOCAN Collaborative Project: Identifying OA Monitoring Gaps and Priorities/Stakeholder Survey

GCAN is collaborating with the Southeast Ocean and Coastal Acidification Network (SOCAN) southeast and Gulf of Mexico regions to provide information about ocean acidification in support of the National Coastal Communities Vulnerability Assessment and the National Monitoring and Prioritization Plan. SOCAN and GCAN stakeholder, the Coastal and Heartland National Estuary Program Director is playing an advisory roll in this project.

The full report on vulnerabilities of coastal communities is under review for submission to the White House but Executive Summaries on the Gulf and Southeast OA vulnerabilities are available now.

Gulf of Mexico: Ocean and Coastal Acidification Research and Monitoring Gaps Executive Summary

Southeast: Ocean and Coastal Acidification Research and Monitoring Gaps – Executive Summary

Additional Research and Information