Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Here’s Where Ocean Acidification Will Hit the U.S. Hardest

Ocean acidification rates and social vulnerability around the U.S. (Credit: NRDC)  Click to Enlarge.
U.S. coastal communities better start preparing for ocean acidification now, especially if we want scallops, oysters and other shellfish to keep appearing on our dinnerplates.

That’s the message of a new study that shows that shellfisheries across the U.S. are more vulnerable to climate change’s less considered counterpart than previously thought.  That vulnerability is due to more than changing ocean chemistry. Social and economic factors, local and more distant pollution and natural ocean processes could conspire to make ocean acidification a problem sooner rather than later.

The chemical process of ocean acidification starts with the extra carbon dioxide humans are adding to the air.  About 25 percent of it is sucked up by the ocean where it dissolves and contributes to making the ocean more acidic and less friendly to carbonate, a compound that shellfish and coral need to grow.

But the new study published in Nature Climate Change on Monday makes it clear that while ocean acidification may make conditions tougher on shellfish, how much coastal communities rely on those shellfish and how ready they are to deal with changes makes a big difference in how ocean acidification plays out on land.  With more than $1 billion in revenue to U.S. coastal communities from mollusks, which the study focuses on, just how prepared those communities are could have huge financial ramifications.

“The conventional wisdom has been to think of vulnerability to ocean acidification only in terms of ocean chemistry.  We wanted to fold in a few other dimensions, particularly socioeconomic dimensions, to fill out that picture,” Lisa Suatoni, a senior scientist for Natural Resources Defense Council who contributed to the new study, said.  “Doing that, you see many more communities are vulnerable to ocean acidification than previously thought.”
Fisheries in Massachusetts face lower acidification rates than in the Pacific Northwest but higher vulnerability.  Southern Massachusetts brings in more than $300 million in mollusks annually, accounting for the vast majority of the region’s fisheries revenue.

"Massachusetts and Maine are places that are just screaming for problems,” Suatoni said. “New Bedford, is the highest earning fishing port in the country.  Eighty-five percent of landings are coming from one species: scallops.  They’re really vulnerable.”

Read more at Here’s Where Ocean Acidification Will Hit the U.S. Hardest

No comments:

Post a Comment