Ocean Acidification Research Center
Due to the growing concerns over increasing acidity in the ocean and the impacts this phenomenon will have on Alaska’s marine ecosystems, the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) has created an Ocean Acidification Research Center (OARC) within the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (CFOS).
Placement of this center in Alaska is critical to the state’s long-term interests because the region will experience the effects of ocean acidification faster and to a greater degree than in lower latitudes due to colder water temperatures, ocean circulation patterns and highly productive continental shelves. These characteristics act to enhance the transport of CO2 from the atmosphere into the ocean.
Given the resources that are already established around the state, the OARC will provide a unique opportunity to collect an unprecedented dataset in a highly vulnerable region. The Center will operate under two broad mandates:
1. Conduct research into ocean acidification, particularly in Alaskan waters, and determine the broader climate forcings that are leading to decreases in ocean pH and the impacts of these changes on commercial species. The research will focus on three areas:
- long-term autonomous monitoring and modeling efforts,
- conducting field observations in highly sensitive areas, and
- quantifying physiological responses of vulnerable and commercially viable species.
2. Maintain a central repository for the federal and state government as well as the public and private sectors to access information relevant to ocean acidification and its impacts on fisheries and other economic resources.
The seafood industry in Alaska is global in stature with an estimated value of $5.8 billion and is the largest private sector employer in the state. Unfortunately, ocean acidification has the potential to disrupt this industry from top to bottom with coupled direct/indirect effects. Alaska communities need viable strategies to anticipate and respond to future changes brought on by ocean acidification. Such complex analyses require a coordinated effort that can only be accomplished through the OARC. CFOS already forms the nexus of collaboration for the OARC. Research in ocean acidification is currently being led by OARC Director Dr. Jeremy Mathis, an assistant professor of chemical oceanography.