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News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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How Ocean Acidification Impacts Florida’s Ecosystems

Posted On June 15, 2016 by

Reef-building corals find refuge from climate change in mangrove habitats. Photo credit: Caroline Rogers, USGS.

Dr. Kimberly Yates will be a panelist at an ocean acidification roundtable we are hosting in Miami this week. There, she will join other scientists, Florida elected officials and local businesspeople in discussing what ocean acidification has in store for Florida’s marine life and its coastal communities. Follow the meeting on Twitter via #FL_OA on Friday, June 17!

OC: Your research focuses on several marine habitats in Florida: coral reefs, estuaries and mangroves. How are they coping with ocean acidification?

Dr. Yates: Most of what we know about how ocean acidification is affecting these environments comes from experimental research. We know some marine organisms will be negatively impacted, and some may benefit. For example, some species that form their skeletons and shells from minerals made of calcium carbonate, like corals and some shellfish, are negatively impacted. Ocean acidification slows the rate at which they grow their skeletons and shells, and can also cause calcium carbonate minerals to dissolve.

Other species like seagrasses and some marine algae benefit from ocean acidification because it increases their growth rates. Coral reefs have been degrading rapidly over the past few decades, and recent research shows that some reefs in the Florida Keys are beginning to dissolve during certain times of the year from ocean acidification…which was not expected to happen for another few decades. Estuaries and mangrove wetlands support many species of shellfish, and ocean acidification may negatively impact those species and the economies that depend on shell fisheries. We are still learning about how changes caused by ocean acidification are impacting these habitats.

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Will Ocean Acidification Affect Dungeness Crabs?

Posted On May 18, 2016 by

2016 hasn’t been a good year for the West Coast Dungeness crab fishery. The fishing season that typically spans the winter months – worth $212 million in 2014  – got significantly delayed this year when Dungeness crabs tested high for domoic acid, which sickens humans, and managers shut down the fishery. The crabs had fed heartily on a giant toxic bloom of Pseudonitschia algae, which produce domoic acid, and which were thriving in an unusually warm body of water stalled offshore, affectionately called “the blob.” The bloom also shut down other West Coast shellfish fisheries, too. The lost harvests equal lost income for West Coast communities. San Francisco Bay Area crabber John Mellor says, “If crabs were to disappear from the picture, I think it would be the end of my fishing career at this point.”

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Massachusetts Tackling Acidification

Posted On April 6, 2016 by

Count Massachusetts as the latest state to take a step towards fighting ocean acidification. Last week I attended a forum hosted by ocean champions Congressman Bill Keating (MA-9th) and Massachusetts State Representative Tim Madden (D-Nantucket) at the Woods Hole Research Center.  While there, I learned about a state bill sponsored by Rep. Madden to form a commission that will guide the state’s response to ocean acidification.

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West Coast Scientists Weigh Actions Against Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia

Posted On April 4, 2016 by

Ten years ago, I was finishing graduate school. I was becoming an expert on how carbon dioxide is stored in the world’s oceans, but – and this seems weird to me now – I hadn’t heard about ocean acidification. Hardly anyone had. Only a handful of scientists had started to realize that as the ocean sops up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, ocean chemistry changes in ways that can hurt fish, shellfish, and corals.

Just five years later, concern about ocean acidification had grown dramatically, and thousands of people were involved. West Coast shellfish growers were trying to save their hatcheries from the effects of ocean acidification, while scientists were scrambling to offer information and solutions. Ocean Conservancy began working on this issue in 2012, helping bring affected business people, policy makers, and scientists together during the initial search for solutions in Washington State, whose shellfish hatcheries experienced dramatic die-offs of their oyster larvae.

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Questioning Our Changing Ocean

Posted On March 22, 2016 by

We all notice when things aren’t quite the same from day to day in our everyday surroundings. Some people’s jobs depend on it. Fishermen, for one, need to notice small changes on the water every day—in the currents, temperatures, and even the fish they’re chasing. Get them together, and these hardworking men and women compare notes on what they’re seeing.

This month, the Maine Fishermen’s Forum in Rockland, Maine attracted fishermen, scientists, managers and community groups to discuss all things fishing in the region. The featured panel of the 3-day event was entitled “Questioning Our Changing Oceans” where fishermen talked about how waters around the world, particularly the Gulf of Maine, are changing.  This discussion was not just sea tales, though. Scientists presented the latest research and data on environmental changes happening in the Atlantic Ocean, and what the future might hold.

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An Interview with Coral Reef Expert Danielle Dixson

Posted On March 18, 2016 by

There are some new champions for corals in the nation’s capital. Hawaii’s Senator Hirono and Representative Takai have proposed legislation supporting competitions that encourage innovation among scientists, engineers and coastal managers to develop new and effective ways to keep U.S. coral ecosystems and their neighboring human communities healthy and sustainably managed. We asked tropical reef ecosystem expert Danielle Dixson from the University of Delaware to share her thoughts on what this legislation means for coral reefs, the animals living there, and the people who rely on them.

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Women in Science: A Q&A with Tessa Hill

Posted On March 8, 2016 by

For International Women’s Day, we looked at how women are contributing to the ever-expanding field of ocean science. Tessa Hill from the University of California, Davis gave us a glimpse of her life as a marine scientist and how her work contributes to a healthy ocean.

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