Ocean acidification: NSF awards $11.4 million in new grants to study effects on marine ecosystems

September 9th, 2014
Ocean acidification: NSF awards $11.4 million in new grants to study effects on marine ecosystems
Juvenile rockfish are susceptible to changing ocean pH: ocean acidification. Credit: NOAA
With increasing levels of carbon dioxide accumulating in the atmosphere and moving into marine ecosystems, the world's oceans are becoming more acidic.

The oceans may be acidifying faster today than at any time in the past 300 million years, scientists have found.

To address concerns for acidifying oceans, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded new grants totaling $11.4 million through its Ocean Acidification program. The awards are supported by NSF's Directorates for Geosciences and Biological Sciences.

From tropical oceans to icy seas, the projects funded will foster research on the nature, extent and effects of ocean acidification on marine environments and organisms.

"The Ocean Acidification program at NSF has been wonderfully successful," says David Garrison, program director in NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences.

"We're seeing exciting results from earlier funding, and looking forward to similarly productive research from the current group of awardees."

Ocean acidification affects marine ecosystems, organisms' life histories, ocean food webs, and biogeochemical cycling, scientists have discovered.

Researchers believe there is a need to understand the chemistry of ocean acidification and its interplay with marine biochemical and physiological processes before Earth's seas become inhospitable to life as it is known today.

Animal species from pteropods—delicate, butterfly-like planktonic drifters—to hard corals are affected by ocean acidification. So, too, are the unseen microbes that fuel ocean productivity and influence the chemical functioning of ocean waters.

As the oceans become more acidic, the balance of molecules needed for shell-bearing organisms to manufacture shells and skeletons is altered.

The physiology of many marine species, from microbes to fish, may be affected. A myriad of chemical reactions and cycles are influenced by the pH, or acidity, of the oceans.

"Ocean acidification is an under-appreciated aspect of climate change, affecting the ecology of organisms and creating novel evolutionary pressures," says George Gilchrist, program director in NSF's Division of Environmental Biology.

"The integrated nature of these eco-evolutionary studies will provide new insights into how changes in ocean chemistry reshape populations and communities of marine organisms."

NSF Ocean Acidification grantees will ask such questions as: Will regional differences in marine chemistry and physics increase acidification? Are there complex interactions, cascades and bottlenecks that will emerge as the oceans acidify, and what are their ecosystem implications? And if current trends continue, how far-reaching will the changes be?

"This research on the physiological and metabolic responses of organisms to ocean acidification," says Irwin Forseth of NSF's Division of Integrative Organismal Systems, "is essential to our understanding of how these environmental changes will affect the structure and function of sensitive ecosystems worldwide."

The grants are part of NSF's Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) initiative.

NSF 2014 Ocean Acidification awardees, their institutions and projects are:

Marguerite Koch, Florida Atlantic University: Ocean acidification, temperature and light effects on carbon-use mechanisms, calcification, and growth of tropical macroalgae: Drivers of winners and losers

Robert Toonen, University of Hawaii: Ocean Acidification: Coral reef adaptation and acclimatization to global change: resilience to hotter, more acidic oceans

Andreas Andersson, University of California, San Diego, Scripps Institute of Oceanography: Collaborative Research Ocean Acidification: Establishing the links between offshore biogeochemistry, coral reef metabolism and acidification

Rodney Johnson, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences: Collaborative Research Ocean Acidification: Establishing the links between offshore biogeochemistry, coral reef metabolism and acidification

Timothy Bralower, Pennsylvania State University: Ocean Acidification: Collaborative Research: The response of calcareous nannoplankton to ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

James Zachos, University of California, Santa Cruz: Ocean Acidification: Collaborative Research: The response of calcareous nannoplankton to ocean acidification during the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

Paul Falkowski, Rutgers University: Ocean Acidification: Mechanisms of coral biomineralization

Zackary Johnson, Duke University: Collaborative Research: Ocean Acidification: microbes as sentinels of adaptive responses to multiple stressors: contrasting estuarine and open ocean environments

Konstantinos Konstantinidis, Georgia Institute of Technology: Collaborative Research: Ocean Acidification: microbes as sentinels of adaptive responses to multiple stressors: contrasting estuarine and open ocean environments

Jan Pechenik, Tufts University: Ocean Acidification/Collaborative Research/RUI: Effects of Ocean Acidification on Larval Competence, Metamorphosis, and Juvenile Performance in a Planktotrophic Gastropod

Anthony Pires, Dickinson College: Ocean Acidification/Collaborative Research/RUI: Effects of Ocean Acidification on Larval Competence, Metamorphosis, and Juvenile Performance in a Planktotrophic Gastropod

Andreas Schmittner, Oregon State University: Effects of acidification and warming on long-term ocean carbon cycling constrained by observations

Robert Carpenter, University of California - Northridge: Collaborative Research: Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs: Scale Dependence and Adaptive Capacity

Kevin Gross, North Carolina State University: Collaborative Research: Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs: Scale Dependence and Adaptive Capacity

Eric Kaltenbacher, SRI International: Ocean Acidification: Collaborative Research: Development of a Compact Instrument for Field Measurements of pH, Total Dissolved Inorganic Carbon, and Total Alkalinity

Robert Byrne, University of South Florida: Ocean Acidification: Collaborative Research: Development of a Compact Instrument for Field Measurements of pH, Total Dissolved Inorganic Carbon, and Total Alkalinity

Giulio De Leo, Stanford University: Ocean Acidification: Collaborative Research: Interactive effects of acidification, low dissolved oxygen and temperature on abalone population dynamics within the California Current

James Barry, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute: Ocean Acidification: Collaborative Research: Interactive effects of acidification, low dissolved oxygen and temperature on abalone population dynamics within the California Current

C. Brock Woodson, University of Georgia: Ocean Acidification: Collaborative Research: Interactive effects of acidification, low dissolved oxygen and temperature on abalone population dynamics within the California Current

Scott Hamilton, San Jose State University: Collaborative Research: Ocean Acidification: RUI: Multiple stressor effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia on behavior, physiology, and gene expression of temperate reef fishes

Cheryl Logan, California State University - Monterey Bay: Collaborative Research: Ocean Acidification: RUI: Multiple stressor effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia on behavior, physiology, and gene expression of temperate reef fishes

Brian Tissot, Humboldt State University: Collaborative Research: Ocean Acidification: RUI: Multiple stressor effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia on behavior, physiology, and gene expression of temperate reef fishes

Provided by National Science Foundation

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