Ocean acidification is how scientists describe the lowering of the oceans’ pH. The oceans today are roughly 30 percent more acidic than they were during the Industrial Revolution some 300 years ago.
The rise in ocean acidification (OA) is tied to higher levels of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning and deforestation. As carbon dioxide (CO2) is released, about one-third gets absorbed by the ocean, making it more acidic.
Northern waters, like those around Alaska, are particularly susceptible to OA because cold water can absorb more CO2. That’s why Alaska and other high latitude seas will likely see the effects of OA sooner than areas farther south. The chemistry of OA is well understood, but how this process affects fish and other marine resources is more of a mystery. Given Alaska’s nearly two-billion-dollar seafood industry, and the state’s reliance on fish, marine mammals, shellfish and other ocean products for subsistence and recreation, the risks of OA in Alaska are profound.
University of Alaska Fairbanks assistant professor Amanda Kelley is a top researcher on ocean acidification’s effects in Alaska. Alaska Sea Grant has funded Kelley’s research studying how shellfish react to different levels of OA.
We followed Kelley around for a couple of days in Seward and in Kachemak Bay to better understand her research, and how tribal members and other citizen scientists are getting involved in monitoring OA. Watch the video below.