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NCCOS Project

Ocean Acidification in the California Current: Predicting Impacts on Food Webs and Economies within a Context of Climate Change

This project began in January 2012 and was completed in December 2015

We are supporting the development of a management model to predict impacts of ocean acidification on food webs and the fishing economy in the California Current. The model will project how effects of ocean acidification, low oxygen, temperature changes, and fishing pressure might interact to influence fish populations and fishing economies.

Why We Care
Food webs of the California Current sustain fisheries of great economic importance to the western U.S. coast. Projected increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide will likely increase ocean acidity, leading to reduced populations of marine species, including those that make up California Current food webs. Though there are considerable ongoing efforts to understand ocean acidification effects on particular species, there have been few attempts to forecast how ocean acidification will interact with climate change, hypoxia (low oxygen conditions) and fishing pressure to impact whole food webs and fisheries.

What We Are Doing
A large-scale ocean model will predict ocean acidification trends in the California Current as well as local salinity, currents, and upwelling.  Next, these predictions will be coupled to an ecosystem model to:

  • project direct impacts of acidification on the food web supporting U.S. West Coast fisheries and
  • measure interactive effects and cumulative impacts of acidification, hypoxia, temperature, and fishing.

These results will predict seafood landings which then will be translated into economic impacts on the broader West Coast economy. This information can be used to:

  • evaluate the likely economic and ecological outcomes of ocean acidification in the California Current and
  • map these outcomes over space to show where the greatest effects are likely to be seen.

This project is under the NCCOS Regional Ecosystem Prediction Program (REPP). Funding is provided through the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program. The project is led by Isaac Kaplan and Shallin Busch, Northwest Fisheries Science Center. Project partners include Elizabeth Fulton of the Commonwealth of Australia’s Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), and Tim Essington and Albert Hermann of the University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences.

Benefits of Our Work
The management model provides information regarding potential impacts and vulnerability of species, marine areas, and fishing economies, as well as alternative management strategies that may allow fishery managers to adapt at local or coast-wide scales in ways that mitigate cumulative impacts. This project will involve engagement with the Pacific Fishery Management Council, continuing an ongoing effort through NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment to use the modeling platforms included in this research as decision support tools.

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