Chapter 6 – Ocean Acidification and Harmful Algal Blooms
Ocean Acidification in Shelton
Aleksey Aprishko, Economics, Penn State University
Since the industrial age began, the high increase in CO2 levels in our atmosphere is commonly attributed to climate change. In addition to that, raised carbon dioxide levels contribute to often overlooked changes in the pH levels of oceans. This change is caused by the chemical changes in the absorption of CO2 in ocean waters from the atmosphere. According to Jewett and Romanou, seawater has become 30 percent more acidic since the preindustrial period due to absorption of 29 percent of all carbon dioxide, where 26 percent of it is CO2 emitted into the atmosphere anthropogenically. The change in pH levels of seawater is known as ocean acidification. Further ocean acidification will directly affect the oceans’ ecological well-being and indirectly affect coastal communities that economically benefit from the oceans.
One such community is located in Shelton, Washington. The location of Shelton in the high latitudes increases the retainability of CO2 in its waters due to the colder ocean temperature, which increases the solubility of CO2, contributing to ocean acidification (Jewett & Romanou, 2017). In addition, the coastal location of this city makes it more vulnerable to ocean acidification because of upwelling and freshwater inputs from the coast that changes its chemistry. These chemical changes lead to an increase in acidity, which leads to lower survivability and development of local fish and diminishes the ability of shellfish to construct its shells. Further ocean acidification will negatively affect local fisheries and oyster farms in Shelton, threatening the way of life for thousands of people who depend on the fishing economy. In an article by Thomas Frank, he predicts a sizable economic impact due to declines in Dungeness crab and groundfish in the area.
Suppose the current trend for CO2 emission will continue. In that case, scientists’ prediction for a business as usual scenario is that current pH levels of 8.1 decline as low as 7.8 by the end of the 21st century (Jewett & Romanou, 2017). This decline could drastically affect marine species’ ability to adapt to environmental changes leading to migration or extinction, which could negatively affect the local population, depending on its ability to adapt to marine ecosystem changes.
To solve ocean acidification, we have to change human actions such as reducing carbon emissions, decreasing pollution and waste, and providing environmental conservation education.
Frank, T. (2020, January 13). Ocean Acidification Threatens the U.S. Economy. Scientific American. www.scientificamerican.com/article/ocean-acidification-threatens-the-u-s-economy/.
Jewett, L, & A. Romanou. (2017). Ch. 13: Ocean Acidification and Other Ocean Changes. Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, 1. doi: 10.7930/J0QV3JQB.
Ocean Changes in Pinellas County, Florida
Leyinzca Bihlajama, Advertising and Public Relations, Strategic Communications, Donald P Bellisario College of Communications
Pinellas County is known for its white sandy beaches stretching from its most popular beach, Clearwater, to St. Petersburg along the Florida Gulf Coast. This vacation paradise is plagued by a seasonal red tide. Although the region is no stranger to the recurring phenomenon, it has grown in intensity and duration recently.
Stretching from November 2017 to February 2019, Pinellas County saw one of the longest algal blooms ever. As we learned in module 7, red tides occur when dinoflagellates invade surface waters. This is often caused by an excess of nutrient runoffs from nearby lands. The Gulf waters are known for their excessive runoffs and dead zones, combine that with a busy hurricane season and warmer waters and you have a recipe for destruction.
The red tide also produces a neurotoxin called brevetoxin, which kills much wildlife (NOAA, 2020). Pinellas County saw mounds of thousands of dead fish and mammals alike, to include manatees, dolphins and sharks. Costs for clean-up efforts in the area were in the millions, with the state granting Pinellas over $6 million (Rojas, 2018). This does not account for the loss of tourism due to the infested waters and the cost to the economy.
Researchers are still collecting data on the changing red tide trends. Scientists are trying to determine whether their strengthening is related to global climate change or natural causes. What is known is that recently, sea waters have risen in temperature, as has the gulf, and warmer waters serve as a breeding ground for bacteria. Additionally, the local Anclote River watershed discharging into the Gulf of Mexico has exhibited signs of ecological stress and has been listed on Florida’s impaired waters list (Watershed Management…, 2018). What does this mean? It has been verified to be caused by dissolved nutrients that contribute to the growth of dinoflagellates. Improvements to the watershed were projected to be completed early 2019, but no updates have been provided. For a region with a booming tourist economy, managing the red tide and reducing pollution in the Gulf of Mexico is vital to Pinellas County.
Watershed Management: Watershed Planning: Anclote River Watershed. (n.d.). Pinellas County. https://www.pinellascounty.org/environment/watershed/watershed-anclote-river.htm
Rojas, J. (2018, November 1). Gov. Scott Awards Pinellas More Funding to Combat Red Tide. Spectrum News. https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/news/2018/11/01/gov-scott-more-funding-pinellas-red-tide
NOAA. (2019, April 10). Florida: Harmful Algal Blooms. National Ocean Service Website. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/hab/florida-2018.html.
Mladen Dinic, Business, Penn State University
As climate change continues to impact the oceans throughout the world, significant change is already noticed on Cape Cod, MA. On average, 20% to 30% of the human generated CO2 is absorbed by the Earth’s Oceans, which leads to lower PH and therefore more acidic oceans. North Atlantic Ocean shores, where Cape Cod is located, are experiencing the same concerns.
“This is a critical issue.” said Massachusetts State Representative Dylan Fernandes during a press conference. Both economic and ecological impacts are a concern for the state’s shellfish industry. Millions of dollars are at stake as lobsters, sea scallops, oysters, and clams are all at risk due to increased acid levels in water. A big proportion of Cape Cod’s income comes from the shellfish. Jobs and income are at jeopardy, and for some towns like New Bedford, 80% of its fishing income comes from only one shellfish – sea scallops. One of the prediction models by Woods Hole Institution Research center pointed out that there is a chance that more than half of the population of the shellfish in Massachusetts waters could be gone in the next 30 to 80 years. In order to prevent the industry from any further depreciation, a special commission was formed.
The special commission will be in charge of understanding exactly what are the main contributing factors leading to acidification of the ocean as well as what are the best methods to mitigate the harmful impact. The commission will also work together with local and federal scientists as well as local businesses to solicit any ideas that could be beneficial. The special commission will have 17 members that will include lawmakers, environmental group members, fishermen, industry specialists, and scientists.
Although Cape Cod is at the front of the climate change fight, one of the shellfish hatchery owners in Maine has a solution. Bill Mook, owner of the hatchery, noticed that his Oysters were stunted as he started losing thousands of dollars. The solution that came to his mind was very simple; lower the acid level in water. “It is like taking TUMS for your stomach”, said Bill. All you have to do is correct water chemistry by simply adding antacid. Although a very simple solution, it appears to be working so far as none of his oysters are experiencing the same concerns.
Culhane, G. (2019, November 11). Special Commission on Ocean Acidification Meets on Cape Cod. CapeCod.com. https://www.capecod.com/newscenter/special-commission-on-ocean-acidification-finishes-first-of-several-meetings/
Fraser, D. (2019, December 21). New study looks at impact of ocean acidification on sea scallops. Cape Cod Times. https://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20191220/new-study-looks-at-impact-of-ocean-acidification-on-sea-scallops
Cyr, J. (2018, October 19). Commission On studying Ocean Acidification is now Law. Senator Cyr.com. https://www.senatorcyr.com/ocean_acidification_commission
Srinivas, S. (2015, February 23). Shellfish face high risk from ocean acidification, new study finds. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/feb/23/climate-change-pollution-shellfish-ocean-acidification
Burrell, C. (2017, July 06). Ocean Acidification Is Threatening The Massachusetts Shellfish Industry. GBH. https://www.wgbh.org/news/2017/06/22/science-and-technology/ocean-acidification-threatening-massachusetts-shellfish-industry
“I Can’t Breathe!” a message from the Jakarta Bay
George Paul Mendy, Penn State University, World Campus
Let us begin with thermal stratification. It is a barrier formed in ocean water from various properties such as salinity and density that prevent waters from mixing properly. What is the culprit? Increased thermal stratification of the ocean waters is causally related to increased sea surface temperatures. The heightening of sea surface temperatures is caused by higher CO2 content in the atmosphere from which 93 percent has been absorbed by the ocean since the 1970s (CSSR, 2017). The primary emitters of this carbon dioxide that is being taken in by the ocean are humans, primarily due to fossil fuels and mass commercial agricultural practices because of population increase and higher demand for such resources. The heightened ocean heat content is particularly evident in the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean and the south pacific, notably some of the islands of Indonesia (CSSR, 2017). My specific focus will be the Jakarta Bay in Indonesia.
Increased sea surface temperature leads to greater thermal stratification. This stratification affects the process of upwelling and downwelling in sub-tropical coastal areas such as the Jakarta Bay. Upwelling allows for nutrients to move from the deep water to the surface water and downwelling allows for oxygen to be transported from the surface water down to deeper waters. The increased ocean temperatures are creating an even greater imbalance in this mixing of waters, significantly halting this process in tropical and subtropical areas (CSSR, 2017). This leads to hypoxia/deoxygenation of the coastal ocean waters. Essentially, the increased warming, to increased stratification, to reduced mixing creates reduction in ocean ventilation, resulting in massive ocean oxygen loss (Pörtner et al., 2014). It is therefore no surprise that the region with one of the world’s highest CO2 emissions, Jakarta, would experience increased and prolonged hypoxia episodes in its bay.
However, increased ocean temperature is not the only cause of hypoxia in the Jakarta Bay. Between 2004 and 2015, Jakarta Bay has undergone multiple similar trends to the Gulf of Mexico here in the U.S. That is, the overabundance of nutrients and chemicals running off from human farms and industrial sectors into the water. The massive growth of the human population in Jakarta and the surrounding areas and the subsequent increase in the industrial and agricultural environments has allowed for greater amounts of pollutants to flow into the bay essentially causing an algae bloom. These algae choke the water of oxygen eventually leading to the degradation of biomass in the Jakarta Bay (Megumi, 2018). It is important to note here that excessive algae growth is a significant cause of thermal stratification mentioned above.
A major component of the biomass in Jakarta Bay impacted by this south-east Asian dead zone event are fish and mussels. There has been an increase in mass deaths of fish and mussels, which are two resources vital to the livelihoods of many of the residents around the Jakarta bay, particularly local fishers and mussel farmers. The hypoxia problem has caused significant financial burden for these communities and also led to increased physical risks taken in order to acquire the resources they need to be sustained. Work is being done to fix this problem, much of it is focused on trying to understand the source of the problems and direct interaction with local communities to get a more holistic understanding of how they are affected (A Well…, 2016).
Climate Science Special Report. (2017). Chapter 13: Ocean Acidification and Other Ocean Changes. Fourth National Climate Assessment, 1. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC. https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/13/
Pörtner, H.-O., Karl, D. M. et al. (2014). Ocean systems. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, K. F. Drinkwater & A. Polonsky. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 411-484.
A Well-Rounded Approach. (2016, October 20). Global Water Institute. https://www.globalwaterinstitute.unsw.edu.au/news/a-well-rounded-approach
Megumi, S.R. (2018, January 10). Crash Course on Eutrophication of Jakarta Bay. Greeners.co. https://www.greeners.co/english/crash-course-on-eutrophication-of-jakarta-bay/
Ocean Acidification in the Great Barrier Reef
Kaitlin Richards, Human Development and Family Studies, Pennsylvania State University
Ocean acidification has been an increasingly more serious issue than it ever has before. The Great Barrier Reef off of the coast of Queensland, Australia has been suffering its effects greatly. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the entire world, which is why this threat is especially serious. It hosts many of the ocean’s plants and animals, which could also be at risk due to ocean acidification (Pidcock, 2020). When CO2 is dissolved into the ocean, it poses a risk to the coral effectively producing their protective structures. If aragonite levels drop too low, then the corals will deteriorate faster than they can build their protective coating. Right now, oceanographers can see visible changes in the PH of the ocean; it has changed from 8.2 to 8.1 since the industrial revolution era. In 2009, a study was conducted that found a 14 percent decrease in productivity of the Barrier Reef corals that has been decreasing since. Many different forms of life besides corals will be impacted as well. A population of snails began to lose their shells from disintegration when they were in reef waters with low levels of aragonite (Pidcock, 2020). Although these issues may seem daunting, there are solutions to aid in fixing these issues. In order to protect the reef, a plan has been put in place called the ‘Reef 2050 Plan.’ Overall, the plan focuses on tackling the overarching issue for the reef: climate change. Its main goal is to pinpoint the overarching threats of climate change, including ocean acidification, that are a direct threat to the ecosystem (Strategies 2020). From local governments to the Australian government, to scientists and surrounding communities, everyone has come together in order to keep the Great Barrier Reef at its most functioning state. Specific policies include making sure that fishing is sustainable, especially with herbivores that help prevent the spread of algae. Another policy puts a limit on tourism to keep the negative effects it causes at bay. Also, it implements programs to reduce the amount of pollution and land runoff that enters the reef (Pendleton et al., 2019). As time goes on, hopefully the Great Barrier Reef benefits from the protections put in place to sustain the ecosystem in the long run.
Pidcock, R. (2020, April 21). Ocean acidification: Decline of Great Barrier Reef likely to be worse than feared. Carbon Brief. https://www.carbonbrief.org/ocean-acidifiction-decline-of-great-barrier-reef-likely-to-be-worse-than-feared.
Pendleton, L., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Albright, R., Kaup, A., Marshall, P., Marshall, N., Fletcher, S., Haraldsson, G., & Hansson, L. (2019, July 10). The Great Barrier Reef: Vulnerabilities and solutions in the face of ocean acidification. Regional Studies in Marine Science. 31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rsma.2019.100729.
Strategies to manage the Reef. (2020). Australian Government Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/reef-strategies.
Colton Sands, PSU World Campus, Penns Valley Area High School
For this report, I will highlight the city of Shelton in Washington State. Shelton is a city of just over 10,000 people, located on the Puget Sound. Like many other small settlements in this region, Shelton is heavily reliant on the oyster industry. Every year, the town holds the Oysterfest, to celebrate the importance of the industry to the town. However, the vital industry is under threat due to ocean acidification. Oysters, like other shellfish, pull calcium carbonate, in the form of calcite and aragonite, from the seawater to form their shells. As the ocean acidifies, less carbonate is available, leading to thinner shells and less healthy oyster populations. The Pacific Northwest is being hit particularly hard by this due to high levels of upwelling in this area. Water from the deep ocean, which is enriched in carbon dioxide, is pulled up to the surface. Due to the fact that land is warming at a faster rate than the oceans, and wind moves from areas of high density to lower, climate change is creating wind patterns that push water towards the coast, facilitating upwelling. This leads to the water becoming more acidic. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Puget Sound will be unfavorable to shellfish by 2030. Another study showed that by 2050, the California Current System, which the Puget Sound is a part of, will have too low aragonite saturation to support high levels of shellfish activity. This will be devastating to Shelton and towns like it, as in Washington State the oyster industry employs thousands of people and brings in over a quarter billion dollars annually. One, if not the largest, employer in Shelton is the Taylor Shellfish Company, which brings over 50 million dollars annually into the small city. Washington’s leadership recognized the threat to the shellfish industry, and created the Washington Shellfish Initiative to protect the state’s shellfish resources. In order to protect the economical heartbeat of oyster towns like Shelton, carbon emissions must be reduced to stop the rapid acidification of the ocean. Locally, nitrogen and organic carbon pollution needs to be reduced. If these changes cannot be made, it will no longer be economical to farm oysters in the Puget Sound, and oyster production will move inland to freshwater farms, killing coastal oyster towns like Shelton.
Feely, R.A., T. Klinger, J.A. Newton, & Chadsey, M. (2012). Scientific Summary of Ocean Acidification in Washington State Marine Waters. NOAA. https://pmel.noaa.gov/co2/files/wa_shellfish_initiative_blue_ribbon_panel_oa_11-27-2012.pdf.
Jewett, L. & Romanou, A. (2017). Ocean acidification and other ocean changes. Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment, 1. [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 364-392, doi: 10.7930/J0QV3JQB.
Oyster Industry Under Threat from Acidic Seawater. (2017) Joint Ocean Commission Initiative. https://oceanactionagenda.org/story/oyster-industry-threat-acidic-seawater/.
States Vulnerable to Ocean Acidification. (2015) NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/state-vulnerability-NJ.pdf.
Ocean Acidification in Camden, Maine
Skip Star, Security and Risk Analysis, Penn State University
The place I want to write about that will face a massive change in the local economy, workforce, and lifestyle due to ocean warming and acidification is Camden, Maine. I lived in Camden back in 1986 for a year and spent many days down on the docks watching the lobstermen prepare their dories (a very common lobster boat) to head out and pull their traps. Camden is a small town that relies heavily on the lobster industry and was built on Camden Harbor as it offered excellent protection from storms and Nor’easters. But when I was there the lobster hauls were low due to overfishing in local spots, terrible weather that included a hit by the remnants of Hurricane Gloria, and a winter that saw massive ice jams building up in the harbor from the Penobscot River. I distinctly remember three of my good friend’s fathers worked on the lobster boats and their families struggled financially the entire year I was in school there. It was difficult to watch them struggle to learn how to garden, and they were always away hunting to provide food for their families. Currently, Maine is in year nine of a lobster boom with a haul of over 100 million pounds each year. A lot of the credit can go to strict industry monitoring and management which is allowing the lobster population to grow and maintain itself (Whittle, 2020).
Relying so heavily on a single industry ensures that everyone is paying attention to the health of the lobsters. The University of Maine pays extra attention to how ocean acidification affects lobsters. By subjecting lobsters to end of the century ocean acidic levels for 60 days, they found lobster’s heart rates to be erratic and had fewer cells in their hemolymph to fight infections (University of Maine, 2019). Most attention to how ocean acidification will affect lobsters has been on how it will affect reproduction and molting. The Gulf of Maine is warming faster than the majority of the world’s ocean regions. According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, Maine will see a 3 degrees C increase in temperature by the end of the 21st century as well as a decrease in the surface pH of -.3. Yet already, researchers have found that fewer young lobsters are making it to the seafloor even though the lobster population and number of eggs being laid is at an all-time high. Their theory is that ocean changes may have driven their copepod food sources away (Waterman, 2019). While crustaceans in general seem to be much more resistant to ocean acidification, eventually they will experience the same fate as many other scavengers in the ocean: a breakdown in the food chain as well as many long term effects we have yet to pinpoint. The only solution is to follow the SRES A1B Emission Scenario and hope that the lobsters can adapt and survive the ocean acidification long enough to see the pH drop again.
University of Maine. (2019, April 25). During abrupt warming, lobsters in acidic water have reduced heart function, fewer infection fighting cells. Phys.org. https://phys.org/news/2019-04-abrupt-lobsters-acidic-heart-function.html
Waterman, M. (2018, August 03). Ocean Acidification May Affect Lobster Molt, Reproduction. Maine Lobstermen’s Community Alliance. https://mlcalliance.org/2018/08/12/ocean-acidification-may-affect-lobster-molt-reproduction/
Whittle, P. (2020, September 27). Maine Lobster Business Salvaged Its Summer Despite Pandemic. Maine Public. https://www.mainepublic.org/post/maine-lobster-business-salvaged-its-summer-despite-pandemic
Upwelling in the Cariaco Basin
Abigail Stolinas, Planetary Science & Astronomy, Eberly College of Science
Upwelling in the oceans, specifically in the Cariaco Basin in the southern Caribbean Sea, showed a decrease between the years of 1990 and 2010. Upwelling is the process where ocean currents bring water from the deepest and coldest part of the ocean toward the surface. Not only does upwelling bring colder waters to the top, it also brings up a lot of nutrients that are essential to marine life. As temperatures have increased in the Caribbean, not only has upwelling declined, but also primary plankton productivity has declined. This is a threat to the organisms who live under the oceans because populations on the seafloor will begin to go into depletion. The Caribbean Sea is particularly vulnerable because upwelling provides most of the nutrients that living organisms need to survive. The forecasts for this region are that as temperatures increase, they can expect to see increases in dead zones and hypoxia in the deepest parts of the sea. This can lead to acidic conditions and can harm the habitats of many organisms. Local communities will be impacted over time by the lack of upwelling because many of them are dependent on fisheries. A lack of nutrients in the water will result in fewer fish. There is no real solution that can be implemented to make upwelling return to normal since it is closely related to and affected by the rise in global temperatures. Continued monitoring of these changes will help scientists understand how to better manage fisheries and the surrounding environment.
Astor, Y. M., Lorenzoni, L., Thunell, R., Varela, R., Muller-Karger, F., Troccoli, L., … Rueda, D. (2013, September 1). Interannual variability in sea surface temperature and fCO2 changes in the Cariaco Basin. Deep Sea Research Part II: Oceanographic Research Papers. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0967064513000039
Correa-Ramirez, M., Rodriguez-Santana, A., Ricaurte-Villota, C., & Paramo, J. (2020, January 1). The Southern Caribbean upwelling system off Colombia: Water masses and mixing processes. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers. 155. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967063719302912
Hoegh-Guldberg, O., R. Cai, E.S. Poloczanska, P.G. Brewer, S. Sundby, K. Hilmi, V.J. Fabry, & S. Jung. (2014) The Ocean. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptations, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects: Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Barros, V.R., C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Billir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1655-1731.
Jewett, L. & A. Romanou. (2017). Ocean acidification and other ocean changes. Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment. 1. [Wuebbles, D.J., D.W. Fahey, K.A. Hibbard, D.J. Dokken, B.C. Stewart, and T.K. Maycock (eds.)]. U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington, DC, USA, pp. 364-392, doi: 10.7930/J0QV3JQB.
Taylor, G. T., Mullen-Karger, F. E., Thunell, R. C., Scranton, M. I., Astor, Y., Varela, R., … Doherty, O. (2012, November 20). Ecosystem responses in the southern Caribbean Sea to global climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(47). https://www.pnas.org/content/109/47/19315
Ocean Acidification in the Chesapeake Bay
Abigail Stolinas, Planetary Science & Astronomy, Eberly College of Science
Ocean acidification is a serious matter because the great amount of CO2 that is being dissolved into the oceans is affecting marine life. Ocean acidification causes the water to become more acidic and lowers the pH below normal which is not a good sign. A place where this is occurring is in the Chesapeake Bay, where its deeper water will be ten times more acidic than its shallow water in the near future. In addition to ocean acidification impacting Chesapeake Bay, nutrient pollution where there are algal blooms are also impacting the Bay, and that can hurt the quality of the water. Many of the organisms in the Bay are at grave risk, especially ones with shells because the shells contain calcium carbonate, and ocean acidification is destroying them. On the other hand, some, like algae, have learned to adapt to the changes. The severity of the environmental changes of this region will depend on if we can turn it around or slow it down. There already has been a 30% increase in acidity in the oceans. It is possible that by 2100, the changes in the Chesapeake Bay would have a synergistic effect, which means that more than one impact is influencing a particular region at one time, putting marine organisms that grow shells into more danger. The impact of ocean acidification and nutrient pollution on the communities in the Bay are difficulties in making a living from the ocean due to the declining health of the water. Currently there is no way to fully stop ocean acidification. One possible solution we can try is to release less CO2 into the atmosphere so that less of it ends up in the oceans. Some ways we can improve the ocean acidification crisis for the future is by eating less meat, driving less, recycling, and using less energy, to name a few.
Chesapeake Research Consortium. (2017, November 6). Bay Acidification. Chesapeake.org. http://chesapeake.org/2017/11/06/bayacidification/#:%7E:text=A%20major%20problem%20already%20plaguing,the%20water%20while%20doing%20so.
Dance, S. (2017, October 5). Growing acidification of the Chesapeake Bay threatens crabs, oysters, other life. The Baltimore Sun. https://www.tribpub.com/gdpr/baltimoresun.com/
Smithsonian Ocean. (2018, April). Ocean Acidification. Smithsonian Institution. https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/invertebrates/ocean-acidification
Wong, P.P., I.J. Losada, J.-P. Gattuso, J. Hinkel, A. Khattabi, K.L. McInnes, Y. Saito, & A. Sallenger. (2014). Coastal systems and low-lying areas. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L.White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 372.
Cozumel and The Decline of The Mesoamerican Reef
Amanda Theodorson, Penn State World Campus
The mesoamerican reef is in jeopardy for many of the same reasons that reefs all over the world are struggling. As CO2 emissions continue to climb, ocean pH drops. The lower pH impairs or halts the growth of coral – without which the reef ecosystem struggles immensely.
Cozumel, an island within the state of Quintana Roo, has an economy that hinges largely on tourism. Cozumel Reefs National Park is a worldwide draw for amatuer scuba divers. As climate change impacts the reef, it shakes the entire livelihood of Cozumel to its core (EFE, 2019.)
Rising carbon emissions cause coral bleaching, but that is far from the only threat to the reef. In recent years, an outbreak of white band disease has introduced an additional danger to reefs all over the world. The disease is thought to work in tandem with the damage of climate change. As the dropping pH leaves corals vulnerable, white band disease is poised to deal incredible damage to the weakened reefs (Varillas, 2020).
As there is currently no cure for white band disease, this mass coral-death is projected to continue. Increasing atmospheric CO2 will only worsen the coral’s position. Even with drastic changes to emissions, it is unlikely that coral reefs will recover quickly. Bleaching, disease, irresponsible tourism, and algal overgrowth are not problems that can be solved overnight. Commitment to protecting reefs may slow their damage, but reefs can take hundreds of years to return to their former health – and atmospheric CO2 may take much longer.
With that said, there are partial solutions and adaptations to aid the struggling reefs. Overgrowth in the reef can be slowed. “The answer might lie in regional protections that provide the reef with the ability to be resilient in the face of bleaching and ocean acidification. Studies have shown that protecting fish species, such as parrotfish, that like to munch on algae paves the way for reducing algal invasions on reefs” (Frost, 2018). The same study also cited the benefits of protecting such fish, which further strengthens the ecosystem and can help coastal areas that rely on fisheries for their economic growth.
Coastal areas like Cozumel can focus on their reef at a local level through specific protections of fish and crabs that prevent algal overgrowth. They can also de-incentivize use of fertilizers that may runoff into the oceans and disrupt reef ecosystems. Though the pH of the ocean is a global concern that can only truly be solved by lowering emissions, local areas are not powerless to protect themselves and their reefs.
Varillas, A. (2020). Coral Disease and Invasive Algae Accelerate Loss of Reefs in Mexico. Earth Journalism Network. earthjournalism.net/stories/coral-disease-and-invasive-algae-accelerate-loss-of-reefs-in mexico.
EFE. (2019, September 23). The Corals of the Cozumel Reef. Mexicanist. www.mexicanist.com/l/the-corals-of-the-cozumel-reef/.
Frost, E. (2018). Improving Grades for the Mesoamerican Reef. Ocean: Smithsonian. https://ocean.si.edu/ocean-life/plants-algae/improving-grades-mesoamerican-reef .
The Shelled Mollusk in Plymouth, Massachusetts
Brooklyn Thomas, Business Management, Penn State University
Plymouth, Massachusetts, located on the east coast of the United States, is especially vulnerable to ocean acidification. The coastal town is economically reliant on its shelled mollusk fisheries. The shelled mollusk is an underwater species particularly affected by ocean acidification. Tourists from all over the country try the fresh scallops, oysters, and clams, which are experiencing rapidly acidifying waters.
Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean waters take in CO2 from the atmosphere. As humans continue to burn fossil fuels, more CO2 is being deposited into the atmosphere and absorbed by oceans. The more CO2 absorbed, the lower the pH level of the waters, and the harder it is for these shellfish to harden their shells. In addition to increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, pollution is encouraging algae growth, which leads to more CO2 acidifying the waters the shellfish call home.
There is an extensive threat to the economy as ocean acidification continues to occur in Plymouth. With the fisheries being a $247 million industry in MA, if the ability of the mollusks to adapt isn’t fast enough, the area will face hard economic impact and loss of jobs. There has been no legislative action on ocean acidification in order to protect the jobs and the economy, however, an adaptation plan has been written in regard to climate change as a whole in June 2020. Potential solutions include smarter farming and upgrading waste processes in order to prevent pollution from reaching the ocean, increasing funding, including through legislation and governmental action, and establishing an ocean acidification task force to evaluate economic risks and establish plans to mitigate those risks. The communities of Plymouth have already experienced the effects of climate change, and if nothing is done in order to conserve the communities, loss of jobs and a major economic devastation is in the future.
Climate Ready-Healthy Plymouth. (2020). MAPC. www.plymouth-ma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif3691/f/uploads/final.climatereadyhealthplymouth_reportv.6.16.20.pdf.
States Vulnerable to Ocean Acidification-MA. (2015). NRDC. Feb. www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/state-vulnerability-MA.pdf.
Ocean Acidification Hotspots. (2019, May 16). NRDC. www.nrdc.org/resources/ocean-acidification-hotspots.
Ocean acidifications refer to the process when carbon dioxide is absorbed by seawater. These carbonate ions are the building blocks organisms need to make their shells and skeletons. When the pH of the water lowers, the ocean becomes more acidic and this makes shells begin to dissolve; this can negatively affect human health and marine life.
Sechura is a city in the northwestern part of Peru. The city is surrounded by desert and has been called Sand Cathedral. The temperature of the desert is regulated by the Pacific ocean. Sechura is a booming home for scallops, and the Sechura Bay is regarded as the the base of Peru’s scallop farming industry. It is believed that the activities in the bay are necessary parts of human existence as they provide food and life for the world. With increasing scallop farming, there has been a great increase in the economy and in the other aspects of the city, with about $70 million in scallop exports, increases in restaurant and hotel business, and an influx of business visitors and job opportunities for drivers. Scallop shells are also made into items such as lamps or purses by artists.
Ocean acidification remains the major threat to the business of Scallop farming in Sechura, as it led to a big collapse of scallop production in Sechura and the lives of the many people were negatively affected. It is generally believed that without scallop farming, the city is nothing. As a result of ocean acidification, which negatively affected the scallops farming business, lifestyles were affected. There was unemployment, and other small businesses were also affected. Since the whole city solely depended on scallop farming, ocean acidification was a big problem for all of the people. It is believed that decisive and critical improvement and monitoring are needed to aid the success of the scallop farming business in Sechura.
What Will Ocean Acidification Mean For A Small Town In Peru? (2014, June 30). Ocean Conservancy. https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2014/06/30/what-will-ocean-acidification-mean-for-a-small-town-in-peru/
Ocean Acidification in Sitka, Alaska
Alyssa Butters, Biobehavioral Health, College of Health and Human Development
The topic and community that I have chosen is the effects of ocean acidification in Sitka, Alaska. Sitka is a coastal city in the southeast part of Alaska. Ocean acidification is found nearly all over the world due to the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and it can have detrimental effects on not only the sea life and vitality of sea plants, but also on the economy in that area. I will be exploring the specific effects of ocean acidification in relation to Sitka, Alaska.
According to the Southeast Alaska Tribal Ocean Research organization, the reason why Alaska is at an increased risk for ocean acidification is due to the shallow ocean level, the colder temperature of water, the higher rates of primary production, as well as an increased level in the amount of glacial melt (SEATOR, 2015). All of these factors play together in order to create a perfect storm for ocean acidification off the coast of Alaska. Specifically, a NOAA study published in 2015 found that Southwest Alaska and Southeast Alaska have the highest vulnerability for increased detrimental economic as well as social effects from ocean acidification (Mathis, et. al., 2015). Sitka is known for their fishing economy, and Alaska as a whole creates over 5 billion dollars in profit a year in the fishing industry (Greenhalgh, 2014). Without an abundance of alternate job opportunities, the economy is very heavily negatively impacted.
Because ocean acidification is largely caused by the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the solution for the threat ultimately involves reducing the levels of carbon dioxide, and some local solutions, such as reducing runoff. The Alaska Ocean Acidification Network advises people to help do their part to reduce carbon emissions by using alternative energy sources that do not involve coal, oil, and gas (Alaska Ocean Acidification Network, 2021). This needs to be done on a large scale, though; Alaska alone cannot be the only one trying to reduce their carbon emissions in order for a change to occur in regard to ocean acidification.
Alaska Ocean Acidification Network. (2021). Ocean acidification: What you can do. https://legacy.aoos.org/alaska-ocean-acidification-network/ocean acidification-what-you-can-do/
Greenhalgh, E. (2014, September 26). Increasing ocean acidification THREATENS ALASKA’S valuable commercial and Subsistence Fisheries. NOAA Climate.gov. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/featured-images/increasing-ocean acidification-threatens-alaska%E2%80%99s-valuable-commercial#:~:text=In%20the%20future%2C%20ocean%20acidification,than%20%245%20billion%20a%20year.
Mathis, J. T., Cooley, S. R., Lucey, N., Colt, S., Ekstrom, J., Hurst, T., … & Feely, R. A. (2015). Ocean acidification risk assessment for Alaska’s fishery sector. Progress in Oceanography, 136, 71-91.
SEATOR. (2015). Ocean Acidification. http://www.seator.org/ocean-acidification
Netarts Bay, Oregon Ocean Acidification
Shayleen Daley, International Relations, Penn State University
Netarts Bay in Oregon is a primary provider of larvae for oyster hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest. Increasing ocean acidification is a direct threat to the livelihood of those in the region, and those industries that depend on them as well. Netarts Bay, and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, is particularly vulnerable to the risk of acidification both because it impacts them directly and because that region experiences some of the highest amounts of acidity as winds circulate deeper seawater that carries more carbon dioxide than other regions experience. Higher productivity in an area also contributes to more decaying matter and therefore more acidification.
Ocean acidification is caused primarily by the fact that the ocean absorbs a significant portion of the carbon dioxide emitted across the planet. The advent of the industrial revolution saw a spike in the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, and in the early 2000s we have started to see the effect this has. Increased ocean acidity interferes with the ability of many shellfish to create strong shells during the initial stages of life, thereby increasing their mortality rates.
Netarts Bay saw this around 2008 with a massive death of their oyster larvae. Hatcheries in the region have worked with local universities to develop stop gap measures to allow them to maintain at least some of their business. One solution being used is filtering the water and then treating it with sodium bicarbonate to balance the water’s ph levels before using it to raise oyster larvae. Another is planting sea grass.
Unfortunately, solutions such as this aren’t accessible to smaller businesses on a scale that makes it reasonable. It also doesn’t address the environmental damage caused by the increase in ocean acidity to the region, or the shellfish and other marine animals who live there without daily management by humans to protect them.
In the long term, the source of the problem, the amount of carbon dioxide being produced by industrial nations, needs to be addressed. If ocean acidification continues at its current pace, eventually, the entire economic and marine food supply of Netarts Bay will be beyond their local ability to combat.
Barton, A. (2017, June 7). Mystery: What Happened to Billions of Baby Oysters. Ocean Conservancy. https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2017/06/07/mystery-happened-billions-baby-oysters/
Grossman, E. (2011, November 12). Northwest Oyster Die-offs Show Ocean Acidification Has Arrived. Yale Environment 360. https://e360.yale.edu/features/northwest_oyster_die-offs_show_ocean_acidification_has_arrived
Netarts Bay. (2021). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netarts_Bay
Virji, A. (2014, July 21). The great American oyster collapse. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2014/7/21/the-great-american-oyster-collapse
Cyanobacteria Outbreaks Wreak Havoc in the Murray Darling Basin
Alexandra Diaz, Microbiology, Eberly College of Science Penn State University
The tributary basin located in the interior of Australia, The Murray-Darling Basin has become a site of yearly, overwhelming blue-green algae blooms (Edwards & Joehnk, 2019). The blue-green algae is known as cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria are microscopic organisms that utilize photosynthesis for food. Cyanobacteria are attributed to the Great Oxidation Event of Earth millions of years ago (Schirremeister et al.,2015 ). Before oxygen was introduced to the atmosphere, cyanobacteria in the shallow oceans utilized the carbon in the atmosphere to generate oxygen through photosynthesis. While ultimately responsible for the air we breathe today, cyanobacteria have become much more of an issue with the changing climate.
The acidification and warming of waters has created an ideal environment for increased cyanobacteria growth in areas all across the globe. However, this being said, certain locations are left particularly vulnerable to the harmful impact of these blooms. One of these particular locations is the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia. The Murray-Darling Basin receives the tributaries of the Murray and Darling rivers in the interior of Australia before waters can flow out into the surrounding ocean (“The Murray-Darling…,” n.d.). This makes this location an important habitat for fish and other organisms. The warming temperatures and adequate levels of nutrients in the basin make it the location of large cyanobacteria blooms in the summer months. Due to rising global temperatures, the severity of these blooms is expected to increase each summer (Nogrady, 2019).
The blue-green algae growth has become a serious issue for the basin because the blooms can lead to the mass killing of the native fish in the basin as it has in several years prior. In the coming of the summer season, cyanobacteria begin to bloom in the slow moving waters of the basin. However, as the weather begins to cool as fall approaches, the blooms begin to die off, releasing toxins into the water. The decomposition of the cyanobacteria releases toxins as well as creating a hypoxia event in the water through the decrease in dissolved oxygen (Edwards & Joehnk, 2019). These two occurrences combined lead to the deaths of the fish in the surrounding waters as they can not find refuge from the toxic effects of the decaying bacterial blooms. Of the fish killed, the most affected of the native fish included Murray cod, golden and silver perch and bony bream (“Native fish,” n.d.). In 2019, the estimated number of fish deaths in the 40 kilometer stretch of the basin is around 3 million, however researchers now believe this number could be significantly higher (“Fish deaths,” n.d.).
Moving forward, management of the algal growth will become increasingly necessary. To physically control the growth of cyanobacteria, Australia’s National Science Agency proposes the use of flow and water mixing as well as absorbent clay (CSIRO, n.d.). The flow and water mixing would work to physically control the growth by disrupting the stagnant waters that may be grounds for blooms. The absorbent clay binds to phosphorus in the surface waters and therefore reduces the cyanobacteria’s capacity for growth (Phoslock Global, 2021). To biologically control the growth of cyanobacteria, the manipulation of fish populations as well as the genetic study of the bacteria are both proposed by ANSA (CSIRO, n.d.). By regulating the population levels of the different fish inhabiting the basin researchers hope to prevent any occurence of fish-induced blooms. The genetic study of cyanobacteria could prove instrumental in the determination of the toxins produced by the bacteria and how to prevent their downstream effects. To control the nutrient availability necessary for the growth of the bacteria, ANSA proposed the tracking of nutrients, the collection of water data and the prediction of the nutrient levels impact on the quality of the water (CSIRO, n.d.). These three studies combined will provide researchers with the information needed to further understand and prepare for blue-green algae blooms in the Murray-Darling basin.
CSIRO. (n.d.). Management options of blue-green algae. https://www.csiro.au/en/research/natural-environment/ecosystems/Blue-green-algae/Management-options
Edwards, A., & Joehnk, K. (2019). Talking toxic blooms and mass fish deaths. CSIROscope. https://blog.csiro.au/mass-fish-deaths
Murray-Darling Basin authority. (n.d.). Fish deaths in the Lower Darling. MDBA. https://www.mdba.gov.au/managing-water/drought-murray-darling-basin/fish-deaths-basin/fish-deaths-lower-darling
Murray-Darling Basin Authority. (n.d.). The Murray-Darling basin and why it’s important. MDBA. https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin
Murray-Darling Basin Authority. (n.d.). Native fish. MDBA. https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/water-for-environment/native-fish
Nogrady, B. (2019). Mass Fish Deaths in Australia Set to Continue. Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00146-5
Phoslock Global. (2021). Phoslock environmental technologies. https://www.phoslock.com.au/site/content/
Schirremeister, B., Gugger, M., & Donoghue, P. (2015). Cyanobacteria and the great oxidation event: evidence from genes and fossils. Palaeontology, 58(5), 769-785. doi: 10.1111/pala.12178.
Ocean Acidification in Petersburg
In my 3rd Capstone entry, I chose to analyze the southeast Alaskan town of Petersburg. This small island is heavily reliant on its fishing industry and is commonly referred to as “the town that fish built.”
Given Petersburg’s heavy reliance on fishing, any impacts to industry would have extreme effects on this community. Unfortunately, this city faces a severe threat. Ocean acidification threatens the island and this problem is becoming increasingly apparent.
The southeast region of Alaska is especially susceptible to ocean acidification for a variety of reasons. One of them is the cold water in the Gulf of Alaska. Colder water is able to dissolve more CO2, leading to higher potential for ocean acidification. Freshwater inputs driven by melting snow, high levels of precipitation, and streams flowing from mountains all can lead to higher acidification in this region.
The reduction of calcium carbonate driven by acidification harms the sea life in the area. This can disrupt the entire marine food chain, hitting the shellfish first, causing a snowballing effect on the sea life in the area. Petersburg has much to lose given the fact that most of the jobs in this town are related to fishing, so as fishing opportunities decrease, so does the ability for these people to work and put food on the table.
With ocean CO2 concentrations at their highest level in the past 800,000 years, there needs to be massive changes in our world to combat this issue and its detrimental effects. There are global factors that impact the acidification levels such as overall carbon emissions, so any way that individuals and businesses are able to reduce their emissions will help to combat this trend. One of the most monumental changes that we could use as a global community starting at the country level would be the controversial carbon tax. This provides a monetary incentive for businesses to reduce emissions, which if we don’t act fast could devastate the fishing industry in towns like Petersburg. There are also more localized ways to combat the problem. One suggested solution would be to provide fishers grants for increasing their boats efficiency, reducing carbon emissions into the water.
Cause and Effect of Ocean Acidification. (2009). Alaska Ocean Sciences Bowl. seagrant.uaf.edu/nosb/papers/2009/petersburg-woaa.php
Mathis, J. (2014, August 1). A Wake-up Call about Ocean Acidification. The Bristol Bay Times. www.thedutchharborfisherman.com/article/1431a_wake-up_call_about_ocean_acidification
Ocean Acidification in Tillamook, Oregon
The threat to the community of Tillamook, Oregon is ocean acidification. This community is specifically vulnerable to ocean acidification because of its location on the Pacific Northwest’s continental shelf, a vulnerable area. Furthermore, varying trends of upwelling contribute to increased acidification as a result of water deep in the ocean being brought to the surface along the coast, despite high concentrations of carbon dioxide. Nevertheless, ocean acidification continues to be a problem that is largely caused by actions that occur all over the world. However, the specific community of Tillamook experiences higher rates of acidification due to both natural factors and the influence of humans on the environment. For example, the ocean consumes approximately 50% of carbon dioxide that is released as a result of fossil fuel use, and it is clear that policies need to be enacted to facilitate declines in the use of fossil fuels and subsequent emissions of carbon dioxide (Kelly et al., 2014). Despite the available information on the harms of the action of humans on their environment, the community of Tillamook relies heavily on industry for income. Therefore, stricter policies are not implemented in Tillamook due to the unique economic structure, but the economy in this community can also be negatively impacted by the occurrence of ocean acidification (Kelly et al., 2014).
The forecasted impacts on the community are severe and quite negative overall in terms of both socioeconomic and environmental factors. As previously mentioned, the economic structure of Tillamook will experience decreased revenue as the ocean acidification problem increases because a large portion of the community is involved in the shellfish industry (Kelly et al., 2014). Since thousands of people are employed by the shellfish industry, its decline would cause financial problems for many people. For example, a larvae hatchery, called Whiskey Creek shellfish hatchery, experienced severe economic losses as a result of increased ocean acidification starting in 2006 and persisting for many years. Furthermore, 75 percent of the oysters produced for aquaculture in the western United States were produced by this hatchery, meaning the impacts on this specific community affect a far greater population of people than Tillamook residents (Kelly et al., 2014). Finally, the larvae died at a rate of approximately 75 percent to 80 percent during the initial period of exposure, meaning increased ocean acidification has serious implications for the survival of wildlife (Kelly et al., 2014).
The solution to the threat of ocean acidification in Tillamook, Oregon requires that increased attention be given to the issue and that a better understanding of how to encourage governments to take action is gained. For example, programs aimed at increased monitoring of the water within hatcheries can reduce the amount of water included in the process that has experienced acidification. This strategy was used by the Whiskey Creek shellfish hatchery to increase their production from 25 percent to 70 in only four years (Kelly et al., 2014). Furthermore, taking preventative action to protect the environment against future periods of upwelling will prove extremely beneficial in reducing ocean acidification in the community.
Kelly, R. P., Cooley, S. R., & Klinger, T. (2014). Narratives can Motivate Environmental Action: The Whiskey Creek Ocean Acidification Story. Ambio, 43(5), 592-599.
Robert Estephan, Political Science, World Campus
Tillamook, Oregon was well known for its fishing and crabbing charters that attracted people from all over the world to catch Dungeness Crabs and a variety of sea creatures in their coastal waters. However, as a result of climate change and the heating of the surface of the coastal waters, the fishing success in the area changed. In combination with possible nutrient runoff and the changing wind patterns that cause upwelling and introduce the nutrients on the floor of the ocean to the surface, a perfect environment for harmful algal blooms (HABs) is set.
This is the backdrop of a seasonal dead zone created by hypoxia where oxygen levels are .5ml or less per liter of water. Surface warming and strength of the wind has also increased the intensity of stratification in the coastal waters. The deeper, colder water normally gets its oxygen from the surface waters, but if there are layers between them, there is no way for the surface and deep waters to interact. Also, with nutrients at the surface, along with warmer water, HABs can thrive and proliferate at a phenomenal pace. They do not live long and fall to the bottom where they consume oxygen through respiration. This eutrophication process occurs during the warmest months of the year, primarily June through Labor Day.
This crisis was first noticed in 2002 when fishermen were experiencing dead crabs. As a big concern for their livelihood, they contacted the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife who then contacted NOAA, and in 2018 a 1.1-million-dollar grant was given to Oregon State University to collaborate with fishermen and produce data that they can use to create a Fishery Management System.
The fishermen are figuring out where the dead zones are by adjusting the depth at which they fish. In addition, they are boating out further from the shore. While this is less than ideal, it allows them to continue their business .
Though this is seasonal and some years are better than others and the fishermen have developed strategies to work around the dead zones, the future will only get worse as long as the ocean continues to warm. One possible solution would be artificial downwelling where they pump oxygen rich air into the deeper coastal waters. This was not mentioned in any of the research on this project but appears to be a possibility in the future.
The Associated Press. (2009, October 9). OSU says ocean dead zone off Oregon is not as bad as past years. Tillamook Headlight Herald. https://www.tillamookheadlightherald.com/news/osu-says-ocean-dead-zone-off-oregon-is-not-as-bad-as-past-years/article_10bece8f-6e47-5680-93b6-4a5353a405f1.html
Hypoxia. (n.d.). National Ocean Service. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/hypoxia/
Klampe, M. (2019, September 24). Ocean acidification and hypoxia plan outlines Oregon’s commitment to addressing climate impacts. Oregon State University Newsroom. https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/ocean-acidification-and-hypoxia-plan-outlines-oregon%E2%80%99s-commitment-addressing-climate-impacts
TillamookBayWC. (2017, November 21). MISSING OXYGEN AND ACIDIFYING WATERS – THE SCIENCE OF A CHANGING OCEAN ALONG THE OREGON COAST. TillamookBay.org. https://tillamookbay.org/2017/11/21/missing-oxygen-and-acidifying-waters-the-science-of-a-changing-ocean-along-the-oregon-coast/
Trainer, V. L., Moore, S. K., Hallegraeff, G., & Kudela, R. M. (2020, January). Pelagic harmful algal blooms and climate change: Lessons from nature’s experiments with extremes. Harmful Algae, 91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.hal.2019.03.009.
Hypoxia in the Chesapeake Bay and St. Michaels, Maryland
Julia Hamilton, Recreation, Park, Tourism Management, Health and Human Development
The Chesapeake Bay faces a severe threat of hypoxia that can affect the surrounding areas, including St. Michaels, a small town along the bay. Due to the excessive amount of runoff from agriculture and wastewater, the bay faces an increasing threat of hypoxia (Horn Point Laboratory, 2019). The alarming rise in hypoxic conditions within the Chesapeake Bay makes the small community of St. Michaels vulnerable to the effects of these increasing dead zones. As a town that prides itself on its maritime history, recreational activities, and fishing, they are sure to experience the negative effects of hypoxia.
Being situated on the bay just south of major agricultural areas, St. Michaels is in the direct path of receiving excessive nutrients that are the main cause of these hypoxic conditions. With the presence of these eastern farmlands, including Pennsylvania, fertilizers that contain nitrogen and phosphorus make their way towards the bay by way of runoff. When the runoff enters the bay, it depletes the oxygen supply needed for plants and animals to survive. Instead, it produces conditions where algae and jellyfish thrive (Dead Zones, 2021).
With the increasing hypoxic conditions, we can predict that fishing and recreational activities will subside in St. Michaels. Local stores, businesses, museums, restaurants, etc, will not be able to sustain their practices with the worsening conditions of the bay. Restaurants will not be able to provide locally caught fish, and the physical appearance of the bay will not be attractive to tourists.
To prevent the runoff of excessive nutrients from entering the bay, people are encouraged to be mindful of their usage of fertilizer and only use it when absolutely necessary. People should also consider installing devices to absorb rainwater that could potentially enter the bay. Another thing that can be part of a solution for preventing excessive nutrients from entering the bay is using gravel or grass instead of paving driveways (The Dead Zone, 2021).
The Dead Zone. (2021). Chesapeake Bay Program. https://www.chesapeakebay.net/state/dead_zone
Dead Zones. (2021). Chesapeake Bay Foundation. https://www.cbf.org/issues/dead-zones/index.html
Horn Point Laboratory (2019, December 16). Warming climate will impact dead zones in Chesapeake Bay. UMCES. https://www.umces.edu/content/warming-climate-will-impact-dead-zones-chesapeake-bay
The Chesapeake Bay area is renowned for its fishing opportunities and other aquatic industries. A plenitude of fisheries and docks crowd its shoreline, jockeying for access to the rich waters. Among the fisheries is Reedville, Virginia. Situated on the western shoreline, roughly halfway between Norfolk, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, the town of Reedville, Virginia is a storied town. Boasting a population of roughly 300, the town was founded in 1874 by Captain Elijah Reed (Reedville, Virginia, 2021). Its economy is mostly based on the processing of menhaden, a type of fish that forms the basis of the diets of many other trophy fish like rockfish. Menhaden are the basis for 2500 jobs and $236 million in revenue in Virginia (Reuter, et al., 2016), and lifted the town of Reedville to claim the title of being the wealthiest town (averaged among residents) in the United States for several decades around the turn of the nineteenth century (Reedville, n.d.). But a vicious threat lies below the surface: hypoxia. Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen availability, which stems from the rapid, nearly uncontrolled growth of algal blooms in water, resulting from overabundance of certain nutrients in the water (National Geographic Society, 2020). Reedville is in the shadow of the issue. In the 1970’s, one of the first dead zones was recorded in Chesapeake Bay, the formation of which has been attributed to nitrogen-releasing industries on the western part of the bay and waste from chicken farming in the east (National Geographic Society, 2020). The size of the dead zone in the Chesapeake averaged one cubic mile in 2020 (The Dead Zone, n.d.). At stake for the town of Reedsville is the industry which has sustained it since birth, and provides jobs for the residents, even with tonnage regulations imposed in 2013. The health of its residents could also be at stake. Algal blooms increase the risk of consumption of shellfish which harbor products of the algae that are harmful to humans (Reuter, et al., 2016). These dead zones will get worse with climate change, as warm water holds less oxygen than cold water. The solution to the creation of dead zones resulting from algal blooms lies at its very root: nutrients. The broad solution is preventing excess nutrients from entering the bay, which will protect communities like Reedville. A big contributor to excess nitrogen in the bay is runoff. Ways to minimize runoff include the use of proper drain materials, utilization of materials such as gravel and sand as filters, capture of precipitation in rain barrels, minimal apportionment of fertilizer, and generally encouraging runoff to be absorbed into the ground as opposed to flowing on the surface of the land (The Dead Zone, n.d.).
The Dead Zone. (n.d.). Chesapeake Bay Program, www.chesapeakebay.net/state/dead_zone.
National Geographic Society. (2012, October 9). Dead Zone. www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/dead-zone/.
Reedville, Virginia. (2020, September 11). Smith Point Sea Rescue. smithpointsearescue.com/reedville/.
Reedville, Virginia. (2021). In Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reedville,_Virginia.
Reedville. (n.d.). Reedville – Virginia Is For Lovers. www.virginia.org/Cities/Reedville.
Reuter, Cynthia, and Staff. (2016, APril 15). Thousands of Fish Found Floating in the Chesapeake Bay — Without Heads & Tails. Chesapeake Living. www.chesapeakeliving.com/thousands-of-fish-found-floating-in-the-chesapeake-bay without-heads-tails/.
Ocean Acidification in Hoga Island
Cassidy Hofbauer, Special Education, College of Education
The inhabitants of Hoga Island in Indonesia have a growing concern over how they are going to survive within these next few decades. Their concern is over the impact of ocean acidification on the fish and other sea life in their nearby waters (Welch, 2013). Ocean acidification affects the local coral reefs, and it dissolves the shells of many sea organisms, therefore causing less reproduction of some species as well as some species dying off causing a halt in the overall marine food chain (CO2 and Ocean…, 2019). Hoga Island’s villagers rely heavily on shelled sea life and fish, both to make a living and for eating, so ocean acidification’s effect of decreasing the amount and the health of the sea life is a growing problem (Welch, 2013). The people of Hoga Island are especially vulnerable to this ocean acidification because they are extremely poor and aren’t able to relocate (Welch, 2013). Their lives revolve around the local sea life and if ocean acidification continues to increase, their lives could potentially be in danger.
When looking into the future, many Hoga Island residents are scared because they could potentially starve and die due to there not being enough fish or other sea organisms to feed all the villagers (Welch, 2013). Since the Hoga Islanders’ lives are in danger and they are too poor to move and live where there is more of an abundance of food, we must implement some solutions to help save them and the ocean’s marine life. One solution to help slow down or potentially stop ocean acidification is to reduce our carbon emissions by driving less and instead choosing to walk or ride a bike, recycling, using solar panels, and monitoring overall energy use (Albeck-Ripka, n.d). Another solution that scientists have discovered that might help reduce ocean acidification would be to help plant plants like eelgrass and kelp, which absorb some CO2, near the vulnerable ocean areas to help reduce the CO2 so it doesn’t affect the local marine life (Jones, 2016). Currently, a lot of research is still going on which focuses on finding more effective solutions to resolving the global issue of ocean acidification, but the methods listed above are just some ways we, as a society and a world, can come together and help the Hoga Island villagers and others like them.
Albeck-Ripka, L. (n.d.) How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/year-of-living-better/how-to-reduce-your-carbon footprint
CO2 and Ocean Acidification: Causes, Impacts, Solutions. (2019, February 6). Union of Concerned Scientists. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/co2-and-ocean-acidification#:~:text=The%20most%20effective%20way%20to,the%20harm%20to%20 marine%20ecosystems.
Dien, K. & Stone, D. (2018, December 20). Ocean Acidification – Effects on Humans. Climate Interpreter. https://climateinterpreter.org/content/ocean-acidification-effects-humans
Endangered Oceans. [Infographic] (n.d.). https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/endangered_oceans/pdfs/Infographic_ OA.pdf
Jones, N. (2016, July 12). How Growing Sea Plants Can Help Slow Ocean Acidification. Yale Environment 360. https://e360.yale.edu/features/kelp_seagrass_slow_ocean_acidification_netarts
Welch, C. (2013, December 21). Sea Change: Food for millions at risk. The Seattle Times. http://apps.seattletimes.com/reports/sea-change/2013/dec/21/food-for-millions-at- risk/
Harmful Algal Blooms in Inhambane, Mozambique
Jenna Kaczmarkiewicz, Mechanical Engineering, Penn State University Park
About 3.3 billion people worldwide depend on fish as their protein. In developing countries that sit along the coast, like Inhambane, Mozambique, people’s livelihood depends on the ocean ecosystem and fish.
Inhambane sits in the Maputo Province of Mozambique. To travelers, Maputo may look like a wonderful place to visit: lots of history, beautiful resorts, incredible wildlife, etc. However, these travelers do not realize just how much the citizens of Maputo, especially Inhambane, are relying on their tourism.
Inhambane is Mozambique’s poorest city, with over 80% of its citizens living in poverty. This is massive compared to the national Mozambique average in the 41-46% range. Those who work in tourism in Inhambane only receive about 13% of the total tourism revenue. Of the 2,400 who work in tourism, 80% of these people make a minimum wage of $80 a month.
Two-thirds of Mozambique’s population lives along the coast, whose lives depend on marine life for both food and work. The majority of families do not have a steady income, so food insecurity affects thousands in Inhambane. On top of that, these families and their resources are then extremely vulnerable to outside factors as well, such as seagrass and mangrove destruction, pollution, erosion, and climate change.
That being said, those working in the fish industry are getting hit hard all around the world due to our warming ocean. The increasing amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed into the ocean has a huge impact on sea life, as harmful algae blooms increasingly form, shellfish no longer being able to develop shells properly, coastal fisheries being cut off, and fish are losing their habitats, and moving away from their known homes. So as waters continue to warm in the coasts in Mozambique, fish will continually migrate away.
As climate change is leading to increasing temperatures, droughts, heavy rainfall, hurricanes, and sea level rise, Inhambane, and Mozambique as a whole, is planning how they may deal with the damaged ecosystems and loss of revenue from fisheries. They have set forth projects and implemented laws in order to curb the impacts climate change will have on their community.
Many organizations have donated money to be put towards combating climate change in Mozambique, in projects such as the Mozambique Coastal City Adaptation Project. Mozambique has also implemented an Environmental Law Act, prohibiting pollution into the ocean, improving management of marine pollution, and protecting their coast’s biodiversity.
They have also updated their Fisheries Policy to focus on lessening the food deficit, increasing revenue and individual incomes in this sector, and improving the lives of those in the fishing community, in hopes to provide all their citizens with an adequate amount of food and income.
Climate Risk Profile: Mozambique. (n.d.). US AID. www.climatelinks.org/sites/default/files/asset/document/2018_USAID-ATLAS-Project_Climate-Risk-Profile-Mozambique.pdf.
Gustin, G. (2020, December 7). Climate Change Threatens the World’s Fisheries, Food Billions of People Rely On. Inside Climate News. insideclimatenews.org/news/29092019/ocean fish-diet-climate-change-impact-food-ipcc-report-cryosphere/.
Joint Action: For Inclusive Tourism in Inhambane, Mozambique. (2010). International Trade Forum Magazine. www.tradeforum.org/Joint-Action-For-Inclusive-Tourism-in-Inhambane-Mozambique/.
Mozambique Marine and Coastal Resources Governance. (n.d.). Nairobi Convention. www.nairobiconvention.org/mozambique-country-profile/mozambique-marine-and coastal-resources-governance/.
Ocean Acidification in the Great Barrier Reef
Mary Kelly, College of Engineering
Ocean acidification in the Great Barrier Reef is becoming increasingly harmful to its ecosystems. Ocean acidification refers to the reduction of pH levels in oceans on Earth due to the overwhelming amount of carbon in the atmosphere that the ocean absorbs. The Great Barrier Reef has been affected more drastically by ocean acidification than scientists had predicted. A study of 3,000 reefs off the coast of Northern Australia found that the reefs are already experiencing the consequences that were predicted for decades from now. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the ocean’s pH levels are estimated to have dropped from 8.2 to 8.1, and by the end of the century, they potentially could drop another .4 units (CO2 and Ocean…, 2019).
With the ocean absorbing CO2 and the pH levels rising, the Great Barrier Reef is experiencing catastrophic impacts. Organisms like corals have had an increased difficulty building the skeleton structures that protect them. In order to do this, the ocean must have high aragonite (calcium carbonate) levels. Acidification decreases the amount of carbonate ions available in the reef (Pidcock, 2020). Therefore, corals struggle to build their skeletons, as they dissolve quickly as they are being built, preventing the coral from protecting themselves. When looking at 69 reefs within the Great Barrier Reef from 1990 to 2009, coral-building rates were found to have declined by 14% (CO2 and Ocean…, 2019). This process of corals building skeletons is known as calcification, and it is vital for the health of the reefs and the protection of marine life.
Ocean acidification hinders many plankton in building their own protective coverings (Ocean Acidification, 2021). Plankton are considered one of the most critical organisms to the marine ecosystem. They form the foundation of the marine food chain, making most other ocean life possible within the reef. Clearly, the survival of the Great Barrier Reef depends heavily on plankton. Another effect of ocean acidification is on fish reproduction, for fish eggs are very sensitive to changes in pH levels. Fish populations could be reduced, which not only harms the fish themselves but also the fishing community in the Great Barrier Reef (Ocean Acidification, 2021). The threat of ocean acidification is widespread and dooming for the Great Barrier Reef, but it does not have to be. The best way to save the marine ecosystem would be to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, however, some other local solutions include restoring seagrass and kelp forests.
CO2 and Ocean Acidification: Causes, Impacts, Solutions. (2019, January 30). Union of Concerned Scientists. https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/co2-and-ocean-acidification.
Ocean acidification. (2021). Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. https://www.gbrmpa.gov.au/our-work/threats-to-the-reef/climate-change/ocean-acidification.
Pidcock, R. (2020, April 21). Ocean acidification: Decline of great barrier reef likely to be worse than feared. Carbon Brief. https://www.carbonbrief.org/ocean-acidifiction-decline-of-great-barrier-reef-likely-to-be-worse-than-feared.
Hypoxia in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Sarah Kern, Environmental Resource Management, College of Agricultural Sciences
Green Bay, Wisconsin experiences a significant amount of nutrient runoff from nearby agriculture and industrial processes. This has caused hypoxic conditions in Green Bay, which has resulted in large algal blooms, killing fish (Martinez, 2017) Large dead zones have appeared in the bay from the low levels of oxygen. The hypoxia occurring in these dead zones has led to a degraded environment and biodiversity loss in Green Bay.
This community is vulnerable because over the past several years, the amount of oxygen in Green Bay has continued to decrease (Save the Bay, 2020). This is a result of pollution and runoff that continues to enter the water. Green Bay is especially susceptible to dead zones because it is shallow, averaging 30 feet (Murray, 2018). This area is also susceptible to blue-green algal blooms, which can produce toxins and pose a serious threat to the community of Green Bay.
The community has suffered a loss in fish species. This has affected both recreational fishermen and commercial fishermen. Other wildlife that is part of the food chain in this area can suffer as well. Green Bay has also experienced algal blooms, which disrupt the bay. If these algal blooms continue to occur, there is risk that one may contain toxins to humans (HARMFUL ALGAL…, 2021). In the Green Bay region, blue-green algae is capable of producing such toxins, and the hypoxic conditions of the bay leave the community vulnerable to experiencing a harmful algal bloom. Because of these risks, people in the Green Bay community are losing recreational access to their water. Humans and animals cannot swim, kayak, or boat in areas where algal blooms occur to avoid possible sickness (HARMFUL ALGAL…, 2021).
There are several solutions that the community of Green Bay is trying to implement to improve these conditions. Improving agricultural soil is one way to decrease the amount of nutrient runoff because the soil is more likely to absorb possible runoff. Another solution is to implement more conservation practices on local farms using new technologies that measure water quality leaving the farm fields and aiding in drainage (Save the Bay, 2020).
HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS. (2021). Michigan Sea Grant. https://www.michiganseagrant.org/topics/coastal-hazards-and-safety/harmful-algal-blooms/
Murray, P. (2018, July 30). Green Bay Dead Zone A Persistent Summertime Problem. Wisconsin Public Radio. https://www.wpr.org/green-bay-dead-zone-persistent-summertime-problem
Martinez, F. (2017). Hypoxia in Green Bay, Wisconsin: Biogeochemical Dynamics, Watershed Inputs, and Climate Change. NCCOS. https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/project/hypoxia-in-green-bay-wisconsin/
Save the Bay. (2020). Congressman Mike Gallagher. https://gallagher.house.gov/issues/save-bay
Red Tides in Sanibel Island, Florida
For my 3rd capstone, I have chosen the community of Sanibel Island, just off the coast of Florida, west of Fort Myers. My wife and I love Sanibel, we travel there at least once a year to get some much-needed respite. Sanibel is famous for its white sandy beaches and fantastic shelling.
If you talk to anyone on Sanibel, you will hear about red tides. Interestingly, until I took this course, I did not know red tides are more accurately called a harmful algal bloom (HAB). HABs seem to be frequently misunderstood by the general public, but there is a consensus that they are not a good thing and seem to be getting more worrisome. I found this quote in the Wall Street Journal that surmises the issue well: “The red tide isn’t a new phenomenon, though its frequency and severity have certainly gotten worse thanks to pollution and rising water temperatures. There used to be decades between outbreaks, but since 1998 the Gulf Coast has suffered one every year” (Foreman, 2019).
Sanibel is vulnerable to HAB’s because of its location in the Gulf of Mexico which is a common place for red tides to occur. The organism that causes red tides is Karenia brevis or K. brevis. For a bloom to occur, K. brevis first must be present in the water. Further, it must outcompete other forms of phytoplankton for the resources in the water. Secondly, the water conditions, including salinity, water temperature, and food supply such as nitrogen must be right. Third, the physical conditions must be optimal to both move or concentrate the alga. Lastly, the other life forms that are present make a difference including some algae that promote or inhibit the activity of K. brevis (Mote, 2021).
The red tides cause a lot of problems for Sanibel economically in addition to causing health issues. From a health standpoint, K. brevis can cause respiratory or eye irritation issues as well as Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning. The economic losses are usually experienced in loss of marine life and costs to tourism. Losses can be in the tens of millions of dollars during red tide periods (Karenia brevis, 2021). One of the industries that is hit very hard is the fishing guide industry. This forces the guides to either go further afield looking for fish, which increases costs, or to switch target fish (Southeast Regional Office, 2019).
The most interesting thing that I discovered was that the red tides are a natural phenomenon that regularly occur in the Gulf of Mexico, when I thought that these blooms would have had more anthropogenic origins. Red tides start 10-40 miles offshore so are away from storm runoff and river mouths that might provide nutrient pollution. While they start there, as they move towards shore it seems that pollution by humans can contribute to worsening the blooms (Mote, 2021).
There are no readily available solutions to this problem. The blooms are naturally occurring so they will continue to occur in the future. However, keeping our planet from over warming will help a great deal with the frequency and severity of such occurrences. Further, better controlling what enters our oceans in terms of nutrient pollution will also help to decrease the impacts.
Brasch, B. (2015, November 20). Fewer fish killed by red tide on Sanibel’s coast friday. News-Press. https://www.news-press.com/story/news/local/sanibel/2015/11/20/fewer-fish-killed-red-tide-sanibel-coast-today-milbrandt/76111268/.
Foreman, A. (2019, July 03). Beware the red tide. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/beware-the-red-tide-11562164211.
Karenia brevis. (2021, March 15). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karenia_brevis
Florida Red Tide FAQS. (2021). MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. https://mote.org/news/florida-red-tide#What%20causes%20a%20Florida%20red%20tide?
Southeast Regional Office. (2019, June 18). NOAA Listens as Fishermen Share Stories of Devastation after Florida Red Tide Hits. NOAA Fisheries. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/noaa-listens-fishermen-share-stories-devastation-after-florida-red-tide-hits.
Image source: https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/23a61dc095d3a42761d030358b5079df62e2baca/c=0-274-5580-3427/local/-/media/2015/11/19/FortMyers/FortMyers/635835442866812934-redtide001.JPG?width=1320&height=746&fit=crop&format=pjpg&auto=webp
Hypoxia and Its Effects Upon Cocodrie, Louisiana
Cocodrie is a village in the State of Louisiana that is named after the French word for “crocodile.” Through most of its history, the village of Cocodrie, Louisiana has been known because of its fishery industry and many of the inhabitants of the town make their living by fishing or in fishing-related industries. Because of recent changes in the ocean waters of the Gulf of Mexico, however, summers in Cocodrie bring not only increases in temperature but also, in addition, the unwelcome and new threat of hypoxia.
The people of Cocodrie have named the hundreds of miles long areas of hypoxic and lifeless ocean waters that develop during summers in the Gulf of Mexico the “dead zone” because oxygen levels in the ocean fall to such an extreme level that fish and many other living things in the water die due to lack of oxygen. The people of Cocodrie say that these “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico are almost like cancer, they remove all fish from large areas of the Gulf of Mexico where fishing was good and, in turn, threaten the livelihoods of the inhabitants of Cocodrie.
The cause of the problem of “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico is the rapidly increasing volume of pollutants and fertilizers that are being washed down the Mississippi River and into the Gulf of Mexico each and every day. The reason that the problem of ocean hypoxia increases during the summer period around Gulf of Mexico communities such as Cocodrie is because that is the season during which most of the farmers along the Mississippi River utilize the most fertilizers and agricultural pollutants. When rain falls on farmland with fertilizers and pollutants, they end up making their way into the Mississippi River and flow down into the Gulf of Mexico. The pollutants provide ample fertilization to increase the amount of algae living in the waters of the Gulf; whenever the algae dies, the oxidation of their remains robs the water of the oxygen that is crucial to sustaining the life of fish and animals that live in the waters of the Gulf.
If things keep going the way they are going, Cocodrie, Louisiana may not survive as a prime fishing community on the Gulf Coast. Fishermen have already had to change their fishing habits and they either have to travel a long distance to catch anything or they have to let their nets out very close to the shoreline to try to bring in a catch. Murphy Black, for example, a shrimp harvester of 50 years who comes from Cocodrie is worried that his grandsons will not be able to follow in his footsteps if there is not a solution to the hypoxia crisis soon. But solutions will not be easy to apply. While farmers upstream in the Mississippi River have been encouraged to limit the amount of fertilizer and pesticides applied to their fields, farmers have an incentive to use as much fertilizer as possible to increase the yield of crops that their fields will grow which, of course, only makes the issue of hypoxia worse for places like Cocodrie. It seems likely that ocean hypoxia will continue to devastate communities like Cocodrie unless the government creates a program to provide incentives to farmers along the Mississippi River to use less fertilizers and pollutants.
Warrick, J. (1997, August 24). ‘DEAD ZONE’ PLAGUES GULF FISHERMEN. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1997/08/24/dead-zone-plagues-gulf-fishermen/c5c0ad7b-7f93-48bd-9b50-91ec151afcff/
Dead zones off the coast of Oregon are threatening the economy and environment of fishing towns such as Port Orford. The fishing industry is seeing more and more of their catches turn up with dead crabs and oysters, indicating the lack of oxygen in waters. These dead zones worsen during the summer, leading to Oregon’s hypoxia season. In 2007, hypoxia caused the collapse of a shellfish hatchery near Port Orford (Foden-Vencil). Recently, hypoxic waters in the town caused a delay in crabbing season, leading fishermen to miss a big opportunity to catch their most profitable item, the Dungeness crab. Neurotoxic byproducts from dangerous algal blooms affect sea life as well because these species ingest the algae and it concentrates in their tissues, such is the case with the Dungeness crab. This means that not only are fishermen not allowed to go crabbing at these times, but sea life also becomes dangerous to ingest.
The dead zones in Port Orford cause the community to be economically vulnerable as their main industry relies on the chemical makeup and temperature of the waters. Without sea life to bring income to families in the coastal community, Port Orford’s already struggling economy could fall even more, forcing fishermen to look into other sources of income. Crabs and oysters that are caught from waters in and around Port Orford must also be tested for high levels of domoic acid, the neurotoxic byproduct from algal blooms in the area, as it is not safe for humans to ingest. Dead zones in Oregon and along the West Coast are also forecasted to become worse without adequate research and prevention efforts. Only three years ago, Oregon faced its worst and longest hypoxia season since monitoring of water oxygen levels were implemented. With rising temperatures and changing wind patterns, waters such as in Port Orford are in for longer and wider ranges of hypoxic seasons.
Fishermen have adopted a few ways to combat the issue of hypoxic waters. Firstly, fishermen have teamed up with scientists from Oregon State University to place sensors that collect data on ocean temperature and oxygen levels onto crab pots that they use on their fishing trips (Ross, 2009). That way, the community is able to contribute towards research on hypoxic waters and where they occur as well as be able to avoid those areas while out at sea. Port Orford fishermen are also exploring other realms of income with locals entering the edible dulse seaweed business that is projected to reach a value of $20 billion in two years. With the local community handling their issues, the Oregon Coordinating Council on Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia are also pushing towards a senate bill that would extend funding to monitor oxygen levels and temperatures in waters to prevent the increase of dead zones (The Dungeness Dispatch, 2019). Hopefully in the future when more research is conducted and action is taken to prevent the spread of dead zones, Port Orford and other Oregon coastal communities will be able to continue their fishing industries.
Foden-Vencil, K. (2018, September 17). Oregon Now Has A Hypoxia Season, Just Like A Wildfire Season. Oregon Public Broadcasting. https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-coast-pacific-ocean-hypoxia-season/.
The Dungeness Dispatch. (2019, February 25). Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. 2(1). https://oregondungeness.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/The-Dungeness-Dispatch-Vol.-2-Issue-1.pdf.
Ross, W. (2009, July 5). Scientists Join Crabbers in Ocean Research. The Register-Guard. https://www.registerguard.com/article/20090705/NEWS/307059996.
Surowidjojo, A. (2018, July 27). ‘There Aren’t A Lot of Other Options:’ Port Orford’s Season of Crab and Crisis. Oregon Public Broadcasting. https://www.opb.org/news/article/port-orford-oregon-economy-climate-change-dungeness-crab-season/.
Coastal Hypoxia in Tombwa, Angola
Kayla McCauley, Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Pennsylvania State University
A coastal city in Angola, Tombwa, is home to over 50,000 residents and is dependent on fishing as an economic source. In the late 20th century, 20 fish factories resided along the city’s bay. Today only 2 remain. The decrease in fishing factories has led to job instability and damages to individual livelihoods as well as the city’s economy. Many fishermen in Tombwa now go out on their own but are no longer able to make a living from doing so (Bearak and Mooney, 2019).
The loss of aquatic life in the region is directly attributed to warming ocean temperatures. The water off of Tombwa’s coast has been identified as a warming hot-spot, with temperatures warming as high as 2 degrees Celsius since 1982. As a result of warming ocean temperatures, coastal hypoxia has become a prevalent issue off the coast of Tombwa. Coastal hypoxia is the depletion of oxygen in a body of water. Regions in which water does not have enough oxygen can lead to ‘dead- zones’ that prevent life from sustaining itself (Hypoxia, n.d). Off the coast of Tombwa, the water is losing dissolved oxygen content at a rate of 2% per decade. Loss of oxygen can have dire consequences, with lower chains of the food web, such as zooplankton and small fish, suffering the most and leading to detrimental impacts on the ecosystem. Small species of fish such as anchovies and sardines are particularly vulnerable to hypoxia and have completely vanished from Tombwa’s coast (Bearak and Mooney, 2019). As a result of the oxygen depleted waters, fish in the region have shrunk in size with adults moving further south to cooler waters.
As greenhouse gas emissions are projected to rise in the coming years, global sea temperatures will likewise continue to warm. There is discrepancy in studies on whether or not the pocket of warming off of the coast of Tombwa will continue to worsen, or if there may be fluctuation. However, as global temperatures continue to rise there is scientific agreement that the larger trend is warming along the Angolan coast (Bearak and Mooney, 2019). The loss of fish species has directly led to loss of livelihoods in Tombwa, creating a crisis that must be combated with mitigation and adaptation measures. In Tombwa, a large dependence will be needed on other countries, as mitigation will require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from major emitters such as the United States and China. One effort that can be made in Tombwa is to protect sustainable fishing by enforcing overfishing policies. Local fishermen struggle in an attempt to combat the illegal overfishing that is not enforced (Bearak and Mooney, 2019). Simple monitoring processes of the waters could have major impacts that improve local fishermans livelihoods.
Bearak, M., & Mooney, C. (2019, November 27). A crisis in the water is decimating this once-booming fishing town. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/angola-climate-change/
Hypoxia. (n.d.). National Ocean Service: NOAA. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/hypoxia/
Ocean Acidification in the Bay of Bengal
Haylie McSwaney, Biology, Eberly College of Science
Ocean acidification results when ocean surfaces absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. CO2 dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. The pH of ocean waters has decreased over the past years, having dangerous implications for marine organisms such as coral. There are various organisms made of calcite that serve as the basis of the marine food chain. Such organisms are susceptible to acidifying ocean waters, having a chain reaction for many other ocean-dwelling organisms.
The Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh is a central area of research regarding ocean acidification. This is due to its unique water characteristics and lack of substantial information of the area. The bay is an important marine resource at risk of dangerous ocean acidification. There are several channels and rivers that flow into the Bay of Bengal, decreasing the pH as freshwater mixes with ocean water. This puts the area at greater acidification risk. The bay is part of an upwelling region, where lower pH waters are brought to the surface. It doesn’t help that there are several, highly populated cities along the bay. These cities produce lots of pollution and great CO2 emissions that contribute to the acidification of the bay. Between 1994 and 2012, the pH in the bay decreased by 0.2 and continues to decrease. The variety and prevalence of marine organisms continues to decrease in this area as a result.
Ocean acidification’s effect on the marine food chain has dire consequences for oceanic diversity. These impacts will hurt the fishing industry and threaten food supply for millions of people. Warming of waters leads to coral bleaching, which in turn will hurt commercial fisheries. Studies show that there has been a significant loss of coral diversity in the Bay of Bengal over the past decades. Ocean acidification also has impacts on coastal ecosystems, threatening their biodiversity. Organisms in coral reefs and other shellfish that use CaCO3 for their skeleton show drastic reduced growth with ocean acidification.
One of the most important things to combat ocean acidification will be reducing our carbon emissions. We must make great strides to transition to cleaner energy so that our oceans are not absorbing these dangerous levels of CO2. Marine plants that capture and store carbon molecules must be protected as well. We must invest in ocean ecosystem restoration so that carbon levels can be balanced. Locally, planting and protecting sea grass can help. Overall, we must hold fossil fuel producers accountable for the damages they’ve caused. We need to work together to limit our emissions in whatever ways possible, and limit future harm to our ocean ecosystems.
Pidcock, R. (2016, February 5). New Satellite Reveals Places on Earth Most at Risk from Ocean Acidification. Carbon Brief. www.carbonbrief.org/new-satellite-reveals-places-on-earth-most-at-risk-from-ocean-acidification.
Rashid, T., Hoque, S., & Akter, F. (2013) Ocean Acidification in the Bay of Bengal. Open Access Scientific Reports, 2(3). doi:10.4172/scientificreports.699
Ahmad, H. (2020, July 12). Ocean Acidification and Its Major Impacts in Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh. Medium. www.hafezahmad.medium.com/ocean-acidification-and-its-major-impacts-in-bay-of-bengalbangladesh-b017b392db2d#:~:text=Ocean%20Acidification%20and%20its%20major%20impacts%20in%20Bay%20of%20Bengal%2C%20Bangladesh,-Hafez%20Ahmad&text=it%20is%20rapidly%20changing%20the,to%201994%20(pH%207.95).
Ocean Acidification 101. (2020, May 20). National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. https://marinesanctuary.org/blog/ocean-acidification-101/.
Ocean Acidification in Puget Sound, Washington State
Amanda Monahan, Biology, Penn State University
The Suquamish tribe relies on resources provided by the Puget Sound (in Washington State). Ocean acidification is already having a detrimental effect on shellfish and sea butterflies, which are important food sources for salmon. If ocean acidification continues as it is projected to, this could mean that the Suquamish tribe may lose access to important foods such as salmon and shellfish. The tribe may be forced to change their economy, culture, and entire way of life if this happens in order to survive.
This community is particularly vulnerable as it is reliant on resources (susceptible to ocean acidification) from the sound that are of paramount importance to not only the community’s ability to feed themselves, but also their entire culture. The seafood is also important to their economy, as one of the tribe’s main business ventures is selling their well known products to tourists and locals. Ocean acidification, caused by the absorption of CO2 into the ocean, weakens the shells of organisms, which can kill them. A decrease in these organisms creates a trophic cascade through the ecosystem, and oftentimes will have a negative effect on organisms of importance to humans (in this case, salmon is one of these organisms). This effect is exactly what is threatening the livelihood of the tribe.
The community is forecasted to be hit even harder by ocean acidification in the future. Organisms with shells will keep weakening and dying off as the ocean becomes more acidic. The predators of these organisms will decrease in number, as their food source is declining. This will harm the humans that rely on these organisms to sustain their lifestyles. The economy of the Suquamish will begin to crumble. Also, excess nutrients from the carbon being absorbed into the water will further hurt local marine life, and potentially make the water dangerous for drinking/other human activities. However, if we can somehow reduce carbon emissions and slow the rate of acidification, these effects will be much less pronounced in the coming years (Effects of Ocean 2019).
To solve this threat, several steps can be taken. Sea grass can be cultivated in the area to absorb CO2. We can all work to reduce our personal carbon footprints. We can also petition companies to reduce their carbon footprints as well. Voting for environmentally conscious political candidates can also aid in the fight to reduce carbon emissions.
Effects of Ocean and Coastal Acidification on Ecosystems. (2019, October 4). Environmental Protection. www.epa.gov/ocean-acidification/effects-ocean-and-coastal acidification-ecosystems.
Red tide, or Karenia brevis, is an algal bloom that occurs in Southwest Florida. It occurs in waters that are high in nutrients, have low salinity, and are warm (Lallanilla, 2013). Red tides are naturally occurring, but with the warming of Florida waters due to climate change and fertilizer runoff making waters nutrient rich, the algae concentrations grow higher than normal (Fritz, 2019). Red tides usually occur in the warm months of July and August, but as the earth gets warmer, it can affect waters for as long as 18 months. The red tide has been killing fish, birds, dolphins, manatees all along the Southwest coast of Florida (Perkins, 2019). When the water that contains red tides is jostled, the toxins in the water become airborne, causing difficulty breathing in humans. Since tourists visiting Florida often rely on the beach area, tourism revenue is dropping due to red tide. In addition, the red tide is killing and making aquatic animals toxic to eat, causing fish farmers to lose money.
More extreme rain events cause more fertilizer to be washed into the water. With the water line rising, waters become more shallow, which is a prime breeding area for K. brevis. Freshwater becoming higher in salinity could mean that the red tides could bloom in freshwater systems too. With all of these effects of climate change combined, the algal blooms will continue to get worse, killing off thousands of important wildlife in these communities and destroying tourism vital to the economies of these towns (Fritz, 2019).
Scientists have been using technology to warn communities of incoming red tide blooms, but at the moment there is no way to prevent or kill the red tide. However, scientists are looking into different ways to do so. One way is to pull the red tide from the affected area and zap it with ozone to kill the Karenia brevis and oxygenate the water. Another suggestion is to introduce natural enemies of the red tide, like other algaes and seaweeds to kill or slow the growth of the red tide. However, this could introduce new harmful species to the area. Living docks are also a proposed solution, which strain red tide from the water. The most promising solution is a powdered clay coated in polymer, polyaluminum chloride. The clay attracts the negatively charged red tide organisms and collects them as it sinks to the seafloor, collecting ever more K. Brevis as it sinks (Perkins, 2019).
About Red Tides in Florida. (n.d.). Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission. https://myfwc.com/research/redtide/general/about/.
Fritz, A. (2019, April 24). How Climate Change Is Making ‘Red Tide’ Algal Blooms Even Worse. The Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2018/08/14/how-climate-change-is-making-red-tide-algal-blooms-even-worse/.
Lallanilla, M. (2013, March 13). What Causes a Red Tide? LiveScience. www.livescience.com/34461-red-tide.html.
Perkins, S. (2019, April 2). Inner Workings: Ramping up the Fight against Florida’s Red Tides. PNAS. National Academy of Sciences. www.pnas.org/content/116/14/6510.
US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2013, June 1). What Is a Red Tide? NOAA’s National Ocean Service. oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/redtide.html.
Hypoxia in Barnstable Harbor, Massachusetts
New England is known for their beautiful coastlines and fresh local seafood. A local favorite is shellfish: clams, mussels, oysters; and crustaceans: lobster, crab, etc. Each season, fishermen go out and collect their traps and sell to their local seafood markets and restaurants, creating a great economic system. Not only do residents enjoy this seafood, but New England has a great deal of tourism every summer which accounts for much of their revenue.
In the season of September 2019, fishermen of the local community of Barnstable Harbor, Massachusetts located in the Cape Cod region found a mass of dead bottom feeder fish in all of their traps. Lobsters, clams, urchins, flounders, eels and more were discovered at prime peak season and much money was lost. An investigation was conducted immediately.
The warming of the waters that season led to severe lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, in the bottom waters in the bay. The current flow in the harbor is very slow, creating a perfect environment for hypoxia to occur. This is the first time this has been seen by fishermen that have been in the waters for over 50 years. A beautiful, vibrant ecosystem of marine creatures are now in danger every year as this new season of hypoxia will now occur. Local fishermen in the area have now called the region during this cycle “The Blob” as it is a large widespread mass of dead zone that has been found to move from land to deeper waters dependent on the wind conditions.
This region relies on seafood for a great deal of revenue for the communities. While lobster, crabs, and scallops were affected there has been other species affected as well, flounder, eel, finfish, wrymouth, sculpin and more. While bottom feeders have been affected the most, with the water continuing to warm, the depleted oxygen levels can possibly rise and affect other species of fish like bluefin tuna, striped bass, blue fish, and mackerel as well as sea mammals like seals, dolphins, whales, etc.
While solutions are underway, a number of preventative measures have been taken in this Barnstable Harbor region. Since The Blob is considered seasonal, fishermen will know when to avoid these areas and set traps elsewhere. There is also a new “Study Fleet” that was deployed to study the area for hypoxia rates and causes. This will give the community a better understanding of what needs to be changed at a local level. Monitoring will be key to finding a successful solution.
The area of the Cape Cod Bay is highly populated and has a great deal of tourism each season. One solution, while a small impact, is working on sewage and septic systems to keep the water clean and reducing the amount of excess nitrogen for futures to come. While this may not affect or treat the hypoxia directly, it will allow the marine ecosystem in other areas to still flourish without having to deal with other human impacts.
Division of Marine Fisheries. (2021, January 21). The Return of “the Blob” Monitoring the Formation and Movements of a Hypoxic Water Mass in Cape Cod Bay. Mass.gobv. https://www.mass.gov/news/the-return-of-the-blob-monitoring-the-formation-and-movements-of-a-hypoxic-water-mass-in-cape
Division of Marine Sciences. (2021, January 25). Southern Cape Cod Bay Experiences Lobster Mortalities Related to Low Oxygen. Mass.gov. https://www.mass.gov/news/southern-cape-cod-bay-experiences-lobster-mortalities-related-to-low-oxygen
Fitzpatrick, B. (2019, November 13). Marine Animal Deaths Attributed to Low Oxygen Levels. CapeCod.com. https://www.capecod.com/newscenter/marine-animal-deaths-at-ocean-floor-attributed-to-low-oxygen-in-water/
Fraser, D. (2019, October 4). Lobsters, fish fall victim to low oxygen levels in Cape Cod Bay. Cape Cod Times. https://www.capecodtimes.com/news/20191003/lobsters-fish-fall-victim-to-low-oxygen-levels-in-cape-cod-bay
News from Massachusetts Alternative Septic System Test Center. (2021). Barnstable County. https://www.barnstablecounty.org/2020/05/11/news-from-massachusetts-alternative-septic-system-test-center/
Emma Richardson, General Arts and Sciences, Penn State Behrend
I am from Tampa, FL and some of my family still lives there today. Growing up, I heard about red tides on the TV, radio, and from my parents, but never really knew what they were. I just knew that they killed a lot of fish, smelled horrible, and made me feel sad when we drove by an affected area of water. I still consider Tampa to be my own community, so you understand why I couldn’t refuse the chance to learn more about my hometown and its complex issues that have grown worse with our warming climate.
A real-time threat is looming over my hometown as I write this – a massive red tide. Most red tides, as far as I’m aware, have been natural, but this one was caused by human intervention, when wastewater was intentionally leaked to avoid a flood. This possible flood stemmed from a leak found in an old fertilizer manufacturing plant. In order to avoid one threat (flooding), officials decided to take their chance on another threat by creating ideal conditions for a red tide. Other than the obvious massive fish kills and general unpleasantness associated with these events, I want to emphasize a concern specific to this moment in time. Not only can red tides cause skin and eye irritation if someone swims in affected water, but these blooms can also aggravate asthma and respiratory conditions, which, in the time of COVID-19, is something we all want to avoid. Because it’s basically a free-for-all down in Florida in regards to COVID restrictions, this could mean that more susceptible people could be affected by the air quality from the red tide as well as the virus, adding insult to injury if you will. And of course, this oncoming red tide could hinder the tourism surrounding affected beaches.
While it’s proving difficult to get fully ahead of this coming red tide, it’s important to note that this could have been prevented. The old manufacturing plant at Piney Point should have responsibly removed this wastewater and treated it before any fears of leakage and flooding became prevalent. This is a big solution, but it’s also a difficult one, because companies must pay up front to prevent large-scale devastation further down the line.
Gomes, T. (2021, April 9). Tampa Bay Braces for Red Tide Outbreak After Toxic Wastewater Leak. Public News Service. www.publicnewsservice.org/2021-04-09/environment/tampa-bay-braces-for-red-tide-outbreak-after-toxic-wastewater leak/a73863-1
Red Tide Information. (2020, March 31). Florida Health. charlotte.floridahealth.gov/programs-and -services/environmental-health/healthy-beaches/red-tide-information/index.html
Treisman, R. (2021, April 5). Crews Drain Florida Wastewater Pond as Leak Threatens to Unleash. NPR. www.npr.org/2021/04/05/984483381/crews-drain-florida-wastewater-pond-as-leak-threatens-to-unleash-catastrophic-fl
Hannah Richardson, General Arts and Sciences, Penn State Behrend
Just last week, the community of Piney Port in Manatee County, FL was evacuated because there was a leak from an old fertilizer plant. While officials of the affected area have averted a potential toxic flooding of neighborhoods, the means of averting the crisis was pumping the contaminated water into Port Manatee (which feeds into Tampa Bay). Because of the amount of water (over 200 million gallons) and its dangerously high levels of phosphorus and nitrogen, Tampa Bay, and specifically Manatee County, is anticipating a very strong and very devastating red tide.
After decades of pollution from big fertilizer industries (like Mosaic), the seagrass Tampa Bay natives are all too familiar with has been put at risk from the pumping of contaminated water. As a result, numerous projects have been launched to restore the damaged (and vital) seagrass carpeting the bays. Manatees are already an endangered species, with declining populations due tostarvation, the seagrass manatees eat cannot grow because of red tide. Because of this history and its delicate marine life, the community is especially at risk of hypoxia and the resulting red tide. In addition to many fertilizer plants that are stationed in Florida, Tampa Bay is especially vulnerable to hypoxia during this season because of all the freshwater it gets from its surrounding rivers.
The forecasted impact on the community is first and foremost, health. Health of the humans and health of the bay and its marine life. Red tide causes massive fish kills, in addition to other animals like sea turtles and, as we’ve studied in class, the death of these animals and the survival of the algal blooms affects the food chain. Hypoxia is vicious, once it starts, it’s hard to get back to normal. Many residents have already noted the drastic changes in the water and their respiratory tract; what was once dark blue has turned a sickly green-yellow that emits a foul stench and burns the lungs. The coming red tide from this will also hit the tourism industry which will in turn affect the local economy.
As a girl who was born and raised in Tampa, FL, this situation is extremely disheartening. Even the proposed solution from Manatee County to pump the wastewater from Piney Point deep into the ground is truly still problematic at its core. In doing so, there could be possible contamination of the area’s drinking water—all that radioactive waste would go right to the aquifer—and then spread to even more delicate and endangered habitats and ecosystems like the Everglades. Luckily, there are more and more people who are willing to take a stand to eliminate the source of the problem: The Tampa Bay Estuary Program has partnered with USF (University of South Florida) to create a Piney Point Environmental Monitoring Dashboard, Collier County Waterkeeper, Colleen Gill is fighting to change legislation and regulation surrounding the massive fertilizer industry.
Cohen, L. (2021, April 11). Nearly ‘Catastrophic’ Piney Point Wastewater Leak Could Irreparably Harm Neighboring Marine Life, Experts Say. CBS News. www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-wastewater-leak-piney-point-near-catastrophe harm/.
Murphy, P. P. (2021, April 10). Wastewater from Piney Point Has Tampa Bay on Edge for Possible Red Tide, Algae Bloom. CNN. www.cnn.com/2021/04/10/us/piney-point-algae-bloom-red-tide-trnd/index.html.
Parsons, V. (2021, April 6). A Catalyst for Restoration. Tampa Bay Estuary Program. https://tbep.org.
Weir, B. (2021, April 9). Wastewater Dumped in Tampa Bay Could Lead to Toxic Algae Blooms – CNN Video. CNN. www.cnn.com/videos/us/2021/04/09/tampa-red-tide-flood-weir-pkg-vpx.cnn.
Ocean Acidification in Bajau Village, Indonesia
Bajau is a small fishing village in Indonesia’s Banda Sea, whose main source of food and income is fishing. The offshore village, which is situated between two islands, is home to 1600 people whose houses are placed on stilts or stacks of dead coral. The village has no electricity, running water, or land, and is currently suffering from the consequences of ocean acidification. Ocean acidification has dilapidated the coral reefs surrounding the community and has led to a smaller and less diverse population of marine life. This change in the ocean’s pH, in concert with other factors such as poverty and pollution, has many believing coastal villages like Bajau may soon be forced to change their lifestyle.
This community is especially vulnerable due to the lack of resources available to them and the very short list of alternatives that exist for the villagers to maintain their livelihoods. Most of the people who fish in the water surrounding Bajau wear handmade wooden goggles, shoot fish with improvised wooden spearguns, and dive without respirators or any other sort of scuba gear. Resources such as proper fishing gear, boats that can handle deeper water, and living amenities such as electricity are expensive and very hard to come by, making this community all the more susceptible to failure if their primary source of wealth disappears. Due to the village’s location and lack of land, few work options exist outside of fishing. Many villagers take their fish to nearby islands and sell them at markets, using the money they make to purchase other living essentials. Others sell products such as handmade goggles and spears to fishermen. The dependence that this village has on fishing and its ancillary industries makes it incredibly vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification.
Forecasted impacts on the community include increased rates of poverty, starvation, and forced relocation—for those who can afford it. If marine life populations continue to decrease, Bajau’s people may not have a way to eat or make money. As many of these people are already forced to live on a day-to-day basis with money and food, the current situation is bleak, and further depletion of the local fisheries would be detrimental.
Solutions to this threat include going deeper out to sea to fish, relocation to places where work is more readily available, and fish farming. All these solutions are feasible, but have major drawbacks. Going further out to sea to fish is much more dangerous, especially considering most of Bajau’s fishers use small, wooden boats that are not equipped for deep sea fishing. Relocation would be a helpful option for those willing to do it, but it is expensive and much risk exists in searching for work in a new place to work and live. Fish farming appears to be gaining popularity globally in response to fisheries in decline, but can be expensive and requires resources that may not be available to a community like Bajau.
Welch, C. (2013, December 21). Food for millions at risk. The Seattle Times. http://apps.seattletimes.com/reports/sea-change/2013/dec/21/food-for-millions-at-risk/
Red Tides in Sarasota County, Florida
Kira Soricelli, Penn State University
Red tides in Sarasota County, Florida have become more persistent and common in recent years. These harmful algal blooms are caused by the dinoflagellate, Karenia brevis, which produces neurotoxins harmful to humans and wildlife. The upwelling and currents of oceans allow some of these algal blooms to be self-sustaining, hence their peculiar frequency (Walsh, 2020). Red tide blooms require a substantial amount of nutrients that are obtained from pollution and run-off. It is particularly threatening considering the fact that brevetoxins are tasteless, odorless, and remain after cooking and preparation.
Sarasota County, like much of southern Florida, is specifically vulnerable to red tides. Due to its location, Sarasota County is able to provide a surplus of nutrients, light, and salinity that is favorable for algae (Streker, 2021). Given the impacts of climate change in general, temperature increases allow Karenia brevis to persist and spread. As the currents and winds send algal blooms inshore, red tides become more dangerous. As we learned about previously, these hotter temperatures increase the likelihood of severe hurricanes and, with them, more drastic algal blooms.
The impacts of red tides on Sarasota County are immeasurable. They experience a variety of environmental damage as well as economic impacts. For one, the community has seen a significant decline in bird population and marine population. As marine wildlife come into direct contact with, or ingest, the neurotoxins, they are harmed and often killed. Before their death, they are likely to experience memory impairment, inefficient immune and central nervous system functioning, inhalation, epilepsy, myopathy, dementia, and/or neurological issues (Murphy, 2019). This damages the food chain and habitats. With more and more fish dying, food becomes more scarce for the bigger mammals that are higher in the food chain. However, these impacts are not only harmful to marine life, but to humans as well. Individuals who live in Sarasota can experience rashes and eye, nose, respiratory, and throat irritation when exposed to the toxins. This exposure doesn’t necessarily mean direct contact, though, as people can become ill simply from inhaling toxic sea foam (up to two miles inland from the beach) or coming into contact with the water (Gorman, 2018). For people with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, these effects are increasingly harmful. If a human were to consume these toxins (by eating a shellfish who had been exposed to this, for example), they are likely to get Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning. This diagnosis results in gastrointestinal and/or neurological deficits.
Sarasota also experiences severe economic impacts, from the decrease in tourism and fisheries to public health monitoring costs. When red tides occur, the smell of rotting fish near beaches becomes prevalent. Therefore, tourists are less likely to swim, especially due to the risk of irritation from contaminated waters. Businesses near the water, such as restaurants and kayak-touring, are subject to lowered income. In fact, in a study done in 2018 after a severe algal bloom, all businesses relayed that their income has significantly lessened (Byfield, 2019). For example, during certain red tides, shellfish harvesting can be banned due to the risks. This limits a business’ ability to produce and sell their products. Furthermore, red tides have been linked to diminishing residential home values, causing even more economic hardship. Harmful Algal Blooms often result in less time to work and more medical expenses. These expenses, combined with clean-up costs and disposal, have been known to reach up to $90 million (Burton, 2019). In 2018, most hotels suffered from dramatic cancellation rates from an algal bloom, and property sales were even less likely. Finally, because of the unknown long-term effects of the toxins, Sarasota’s political spectrum has suffered (Barniskis, 2019). As candidates place their blame on various sources (government, small business, etc.), the general public receives limited information and direction.
There are many ways that Sarasota has been working to combat the harmful effects of algal blooms. To begin, they recently put high-tech stormwater filters in place to catch nutrients before they reach the bay. Hopefully, this will diminish the food supply for algae. Second, they are in need of more research funding from state and federal governments. Currently, they are researching “modified clays” to kill K. brevis. These clays attempt to consume the algae until it can break down safely at the bottom of the ocean (Albert, 2021). Similarly, there have been conversations regarding the introduction of a new algae, which would compete with K. brevis. More studies, like the Roskamp Institute Florida Red Tide Study, call on volunteers to research the effects, connections, and combative measures relating to red tides. Further, surveys have been conducted to study compounds from seaweed, parasitic algae, and filter-feeding organisms that can naturally fight red tides. In comparison, scientists in the field have also been testing a process that would pump contaminated seawater into an ozone-treatment system. This would allow for pure water to be pumped back into a canal, cove, or other water source. While these studies have shown to be successful in limiting harmful red tides in about a day’s time, scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute have also found methods that may control red tides in small, local areas (Amerine, 2021). This would provide a kind of antidote that kills off the toxins before the red tide reaches a harmful stage. Lastly, scientists can continue to monitor red tides by frequently taking water samples from various locations, but this can become costly without the proper funding.
In addition, the community has noted benefits from catch-and-release measures during red tides, although these would also prevent the economy from prospering. Ultimately, Sarasota individuals need to fight to protect and restore wetlands and limit stormwater, fertilizer, and septic tank and wastewater runoff. To add, enforcing water quality regulations, fertilizer restrictions, and aiding local communities’ transition from septic systems to inspected sewers would provide ample benefits. If Sarasota can find a way to control and reform matters surrounding pollution, they would likely experience less severe red tides. Methods to address this include cleaning up pet waste, commercial car washes to collect wastewater, and ocean-friendly choices. To make ocean friendly choices, one should use organic materials like mulch and compost to promote healthy soil. Individuals can also plant their own plants and build rain gutters into the infrastructure and landscape, which will allow time to eliminate the runoff (Nelson, 2018). In continuation, publicly posting beach closures and health advisories would be a way for officials to quickly address red tide effects in humans. Red tide emergency orders allow time for research, cleanup, and wildlife rescues. If the people of Sarasota learn to recognize their own contributions, the impacts will be far less detrimental. To do this, Sarasota community members can use specific apps to denote and report symptoms/findings. To continue, they can choose sustainable seafood, which is harvested without negatively impacting the environment. Lastly, they can limit their plastic use and, instead, choose biodegradable products (Resnik, 2018). Overall, this will hopefully lead to an improvement in red tide resources.
Albert, A. (2021, March 12). Florida Red Tide: Causes and Effects Explained. FishingBooker Blog. www.fishingbooker.com/blog/florida-red-tide-explained/.
Amerine, L. (2021). Red Tide Information. VisitFlorida: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. www.visitflorida.org/resources/crisis-preparation/red-tide-information/.
Barniskis, E. (2019, June 10). Florida Red Tide: How You Can Help. Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. www.mote.org/florida-red-tide-how-you-can-help.
Burton, R. (2019, June 10). Red Tide Is Expensive. Here’s Why. Florida Museum. www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/earth-systems/blog/red-tide-is-expensive-heres-why/.
Byfield, F. (2019, January 3). What Is Causing Red Tide in Florida & What Can You Do To Stop It? Beach. www.beach.com/tips/what-is-causing-florida-red-tide/.
Gorman, S. (2018, August 16). Scientists Seek New Ways to Combat Florida’s Growing ‘Red Tide’. Reuters. www.reuters.com/article/us-florida-redtide-idUSKBN1L102M.
Murphy, B. (2019, January 9). Understanding Florida’s Red Tide. Florida Sea Grant. www.flseagrant.org/news/2018/12/understanding-floridas-red-tide/.
Nelson, C. (2018, September 16). Take Action on Harmful Algal Blooms & Toxic Red Tides in Florida. Surfrider Foundation. https://www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog/entry/take-action-on-harmful-algal-blooms-toxic-red-tides-in-florida.
Resnick, B. (2018, August 30). Why Florida’s Red Tide Is Killing Fish, Manatees, and Turtles. Vox. www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/8/30/17795892/red-tide-2018-florida-gulf-sarasota-sanibel-okeechobee.
Streker, R. (2021, March 1). Guest Opinion: Audubon Florida Expert Expresses Concern with Red Tide’s Impact on Birds. Fort Myers News-Press. www.news-press.com/story/opinion/2021/03/01/audubon-florida-expert-expresses-concern-red-tides-impact-birds/6862618002/.
Walsh, C. (2020, October 22). Red Tide Study Update: Potential Health Risks. The Roskamp Institute. www.roskampinstitute.org/news/red-tide-study-update-potential-health-risks/.
Hypoxia in Biloxi, Mississippi
Stella Wang, Accounting, Penn State University
Biloxi, Mississippi is one of many cities and communities along the Gulf of Mexico Coast being affected by hypoxia. Hypoxia occurs when oxygen levels in the water are depleted. For Biloxi and surrounding areas, it has been found that the Mississippi River carries extra nutrients that are deposited into the Gulf Coast. These nutrients are absorbed and encourage the growth of algae, which use up oxygen. Researchers have found that the area of water along the Gulf Coast affected by hypoxia has steadily increased over the past three decades. Biloxi is vulnerable to the threat of hypoxia because life in the city revolves around the water. Fish is a major diet of locals and seafood restaurants look to attract tourists with their specialty dishes. Famous for its beaches and nightlife, Biloxi profits greatly from its tourism industry. Tour guide companies offer boat rides and sightings of sea animals like loggerhead turtles and dolphins. Algal blooms caused by hypoxia wreck these industries, as toxins created by algae make their way through the ecosystem. Fish die by the thousands as they wash up on shores during red tides. Visitors say the smell left by these red tides is unbearable, leaving beaches deserted during red tide seasons. Fishermen must resort to sailing further out from the coast as fish affected by algal blooms can be toxic to humans if consumed. Locals say that business has slowed down during the summer season, with hotels and stores getting close to bankruptcy. It seems that hypoxia in the ocean waters is turning away tourists who would rather find other, more attractive locations to vacation. The forecasted impacts of hypoxia on Biloxi are not positive, as the city by itself cannot do enough to stop hypoxia. Hypoxia will likely continue to spread to more areas in the coming years. Red tides will become more unpredictable, as seen by recent red tides hitting outside of the normal red tide season. Local businesses will be put to the test as profitable industries 30 years ago will not experience the same profitability in the future. To help solve the threat of hypoxia, Mississippi’s Department of Marine Resources has implemented strict regulations for fishing and swimming in areas affected by algal growth. This will hopefully make sure seafood sold is free of toxins and keep people safe. The department has also taken the initiative to sample affected areas and potentially affected areas each day. Keeping track of toxicity levels will help the city know what areas to avoid and what areas are safe. Other solutions revolve around changing agricultural practices to more organic methods to prevent excess nutrients from entering the Gulf.
Blue-Green Algal Bloom FAQ. (2020). Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. https://dmr.ms.gov/algal-blooms/
Meltzer, M. (2019, July 18). No need to panic, Mississippi’s Gulf Coast beaches are actually still open. Coastal Mississippi. https://www.gulfcoast.org/articles/post/no-need-to-panic-mississippis-gulf-coast-beaches-are-actually-still-open/
The Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone. (2017, October 23). USGS. https://toxics.usgs.gov/hypoxia/hypoxic_zone.html
Ocean Acidification in Houma, Louisiana
Ian Brehm, Business, Penn State World Campus
Houma, population 33,334, is the parish seat of Terrebonne Parish on the south-central coast of Louisiana. The commercial oyster industry is an important part of the economy in Houma and, indeed, in communities across the Gulf Coast. Terrebonne, Plaquemines, and Saint Bernard – the three Louisiana parishes in which oysters are most important – combined generate $30 million annually from oyster harvests and support large numbers of workers through approximately 1,000 commercial fishing licenses (NRDC, 2015). Across Louisiana, shellfish account for 77 percent of total fishing revenue, and the seafood industry as a whole provides 30,090 jobs (NOAA, 2017).
The threats facing Houma are ocean acidification (OA) combined with harmful algal blooms (HABs) and hypoxia. The threat is not obvious from a cursory review of acidification models, which predict Gulf waters will not experience acidification until at least 2100. Yet these models account only for OA caused by absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Research published in Nature Climate Change in 2015 identifies 16 coastal bioregions highly vulnerable to OA; Houma lies in one of these (Ekstrom et al., 2015). For Houma, this vulnerability stems less from direct exposure to atmospheric-related OA than from the presence of two local amplifiers: eutrophication and acidic river discharge. Highly eutrophic estuaries provide nutrient-enriched waters that allow for algal blooms; when these algae die and decompose, they release CO2 that acidifies local waters. Rivers that discharge large volumes of relatively acidic freshwater further this local acidification. These two amplifiers also decrease seawater’s buffering capacity, or its ability to absorb further acidity without changing pH (Ekstrom et al., 2015; Northeast Coastal Acidification Network, n.d.). Together, eutrophication and acidic river discharge pose a threat for the present and the future. Today, these two factors raise acidity levels in coastal waters. In the future, as climate change progresses, these local amplifiers will magnify the effects of atmospheric CO2-related OA on local communities. These findings are supported by a 2020 Texas A&M and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) study that finds coastal OA is increasing more quickly than open-ocean acidification (Randall, 2020).
Terrebonne’s vulnerability to OA is magnified by social factors. This is partly due to economic sensitivity; Terrebonne’s dependence on shellfish means that declining shellfish health will hurt Terrebonne’s economy. Commercial mollusk harvesters in Louisiana rely exclusively on a single species, the Eastern Oyster, Crassostrea virginica (NRDC, 2015). More importantly, this vulnerability stems from low adaptive capacity. Few research programs and grants, absence of current political action or planning, and existence of few employment alternatives are all factors leading Terrebonne to rank in the lowest adaptive capacity category (Ekstrom et al., 2015).
Ocean acidification will impact the Gulf Coast marine environment in several ways. OA stresses shellfish and other marine species that rely on constructing shells from carbonate, taking away energy from eating and growth (Ekstrom et al., 2015). This is particularly true during larval stages, when oysters and other shellfish species form their shells out of aragonite, the carbonate polymorph more susceptible to acidification (Brown, 2017). These species switch to constructing calcite shells later in development. As it progresses, OA will harm a wide range of species. This includes plankton, the base of the marine food web; a decline of plankton would cause repercussions throughout the marine ecosystem. As discussed above, these ecosystem effects would directly impact the economy in Houma and in numerous other Gulf Coast communities.
The 2019 Terrebonne Parish Adaptation Strategy, created by Louisiana’s Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE), lays out adaptation and resilience strategies for addressing climate threats in Terrebonne. What stands out in the report is the lack of preparation for acidification; the authors’ only applicable recommendation is to diversify the economic opportunities afforded to seafood workers (2019). This lack of preparation is reflected in the social vulnerability score assigned by Ekstrom et al. in the Nature Climate Change study. And it is true that prevention of OA in the long term is a global problem that requires halting and drawing down atmospheric CO2 levels. For success in this, it is vital to have coordinated national and international policy.
Combating locally driven OA in the Gulf, however, is in some ways more approachable than many other climate crises. Reducing eutrophication will lower coastal OA levels and will lessen the magnitude of change when atmospheric CO2-driven acidification does occur. This can be achieved by reducing nutrient runoff and pollution through improvements to chemical intensive agriculture, installation of riparian buffers, creation of environmental regulations, and upgrading of wastewater treatment (NRDC, 2015). Increasing research funding, another important step toward addressing OA, is underway: a partnership established in 2020 between Louisiana, Texas, and NOAA is providing three Louisiana graduate students with funding to conduct research into acidification in Gulf waters (Sea Grant Louisiana, 2020). Selecting and cultivating OA-resistant oyster strains provides another potential solution, as does surrounding oyster beds with eelgrass, which combats acidification by absorbing CO2 for photosynthesis (Burns, 2018).
Brown, H. C. (2017, November 28). Oysters on acid: How the ocean’s declining pH will change the way we eat. The Counter. thecounter.org/ocean-acidification-oysters-dungeness crabs/
Burns, J. (Host). (2018, July 18). This aquatic grass could help shellfish threatened by ocean acidification. PBS NewsHour. www.pbs.org/newshour/show/this-aquatic-grass-could help-shellfish-threatened-by-ocean-acidification
Ekstrom, J. A., Suatoni, L., Cooley, S. R., Pendleton, L. H., Waldbusser, G. G., Cinner, J. E., Ritter, J., Langdon, C., van Hooidonk, R., Gledhill, D., Wellman, K. Beck, M. W., Brander, L. M., Rittschof, D., Doherty, C., Edwards, P. E. T., & Portela, R. (2015, February 23). Vulnerability and adaptation of U.S. shellfisheries to ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change, 5(3), 207-214. doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2508
LA SAFE. (2019, April). Terrebonne Parish Adaptation Strategy. s3.amazonaws.com/lasafe/ Final+Adaptation+Strategies/Terrebonne+Parish+Adaptation+Strategy.pdf
NOAA. (2017). Fisheries economics of the United States interactive tool. www.fisheries.noaa.gov/data-tools/fisheries-economics-united-states-interactive-tool
Northeast Coastal Acidification Network. (n.d.). Glossary. www.necan.org/lexicon/5
NRDC. (2015, February). Louisiana is highly vulnerable to ocean acidification according to a new study. www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/state-vulnerability-LA.pdf
Randall, K. (2020, July 23). Study says carbon dioxide levels rising in Gulf of Mexico. [Press release]. Texas A&M Today. today.tamu.edu/2020/07/23/study-says-carbon dioxide-levels-rising-in-gulf-of-mexico/
Sea Grant Louisiana. (2020, August 3). NOAA partnership focuses on ocean acidification research efforts in the Gulf of Mexico. www.laseagrant.org/2020/noaa-partnership-ocean acidification/
Bonaire affected by Ocean warming and acidification
Jacob Ehrbaker, Biochemistry, Penn State Eberly College of Science
Coral reefs are an essential part of the ocean’s ecosystem, often called the rainforest of the sea. However, these diverse coral reefs are at risk of coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is where the symbiotic algae that give the coral its color leave the coral, giving the coral a white color. While the color of the coral may not be the biggest issue with bleaching in the ocean, it can impact communities who rely on tourism to see the colorful coral. Bonaire, an island almost entirely dedicated to scuba diving, is at risk of an economic collapse if the coral completely disappears (Bralower, 2021).
Coral bleaching results from a changing oceanic environment, causing the algae to migrate or die. Two main factors cause this change in the aquatic environment: ocean acidification and ocean warming. Ocean acidification causes a chain chemical reaction that ends with less CaCO3 being able to precipitate from the water, making it more difficult for coral to grow and could even begin to dissolve coral at a certain pH. In addition to ocean acidification, ocean warming poses a threat because the symbiotic algae thrive at a specific temperature range. When the algae are outside the temperature range, they become less productive and potentially die if they don’t change environments. Scientists predict that coral bleaching will only worsen with ocean acidification and ocean warming, both being byproducts of climate change (Bralower, 2021)
Bonaire, an island in the Caribbean Netherlands, will face environmental issues and economic instability due to bleaching coral. While the correlation between coral and the economy might not be immediately apparent, the Bonaire Chamber reports 41% of the population works in the tourism industry (2021). Scuba diving is a major attraction for tourists to go to Bonaire, drawing the majority of tourists. If the coral gets bleached, then fewer tourists will want to visit and spend money. The median income on the island is already low at $27,500 and will only drop as tourism drops with it (KvK Bonaire, 2021).
As of 2020, 61% of Bonaire’s coral is bleached. As time goes on, the impacts of climate change will slowly destroy the coral reefs and take Bonaire’s economy with it. Sea surface temperatures (SST) will only continue to rise, causing bleaching to worsen. Certain coral species are less vulnerable to the changing oceanic environment, but without human help, it will take a long time for the coral to recover fully.
There are a few ways to protect the coral reefs as well as the local economy. Coral grows best in shallower waters, around 5 meters deep. The same study also found that certain species of coral are resilient to coral bleaching, such as the yellow pencil and ten-rayed star. Planting these species in shallow water will give them a chance to thrive and bring back Bonaire’s colorful coral reefs. In addition, the economy could move to other forms of tourism as a safety net. Tourism Bonaire is currently advertising its terrestrial wildlife in an attempt to bring back tourists (n.d.).
Bralower, T. (2021). “Module 7” Summer 2021.
InfoBonaire.com. (2021, May 28). InfoBonaire: The bonaire information site updated daily. InfoBonaire. https://infobonaire.com
KvK Bonaire. (2021, February 16). The economy. Bonaire Commerce. https://bonairechamber.com/en/running-a-business-on-bonaire/the-economy/
Tourism Bonaire. (n.d.). Bonaire Offical Site – Top Destination for Diving and Eco-Activities. https://www.tourismbonaire.com
Ocean Acidification Homer, Alaska
Kylee Ehrensberger, Business, Penn State World Campus
Homer, Alaska is located at the end of Sterling Highway about 200 miles south of Anchorage with a population of about 5,810 people as of 2018 (Ono et al., 2020). Homer is famous for the halibut fishing along with muscle and clam (variety of shellfish) farming. However, locals have witnessed extreme changes to the quality and characteristics of their fishing and farming waters. Ocean acidification is wreaking havoc on the ocean’s waters and the marine aquatic life living beneath the surface. Alaska’s waters are expected to experience ocean acidification more fiercely and sooner than other coastal farms around the world. This is due to the colder water absorbing carbon dioxide more easily than warm water- increasing the acidity in the water. The unique upwellings of the ocean water also brings acidic water up from the deep ocean as well (NOAA, 2014). The community in Homer, Alaska has already been heavily impacted by ocean acidification in an event in 2014 as local shellfish farmer, Weatherly Bates recalls (Ono et al., 2020). The high levels of acidity would not allow for yearling shellfish to build their shells, since acidic waters lack oxygen and makes it hard for calcium carbonate to precipitate out, slowing shell growth (Ono et al., 2020). Since the young shellfish cannot build a sufficient shell, the young shellfish perishes. Naturally, when a source of food at the lower end of the food chain falls short, we see a ripple effect continuously up the food chain. In the years following 2014, the aquatic bird population rapidly decreased due to the abundance of food sources killed off by high acidity and warmer temperatures. The shellfish farmers of Homer, Alaska are comfortable with their future standing dealing with ocean acidification. The farmers have educated themselves about the upwellings and ocean’s chemistry to provide ideal environments for their shellfish larvae (Ono et al., 2020). The farmers have created a man-made growing sanctuary that lies beneath the ocean’s surface. When acidity levels are high, farmers add calcium carbonate into the water. This not only allows their shellfish to build strong sustaining shells but surrounding natural marine life as well. Since the oxygen levels are low in acidic waters farmers have begun to grow kelp to aide in ocean acidification in numerous ways. Kelp not only adds much needed oxygen to the water but also serves as shelter and food for fish and other natural marine wildlife. Because ocean acidification is caused by carbon dioxide from the air being absorbed by the ocean water, to reduce ocean acidification and its detrimental effect to the ocean waters, is to reduce or carefully monitor the amount of carbon dioxide emissions polluting our air.
NOAA. (2014, July 31). NOAA-led Study Shows Alaska Fisheries and Communities at Risk from Ocean Acidification. https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa-led-study-shows-alaska-fisheries-and-communities-at-risk-from-ocean-acidification.
Ono, R., Frey, M., & Hogge, K. (2020, July 8). What Climate Change Means for Alaskan Shellfish Farming. Ocean Conservancy. https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2020/07/01/climate-change-means-alaskan-shellfish-farming/.
Ocean Warming in Tombwa, Angola
Olivia Kulla, Psychology, Penn State University
Tombwa is a community with 45,000 people that lies on the coast of Angola, a Southern African nation (Tômbua, 2020). Tombwa is a place that emits very low levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere yet feels the effect of climate change immensely. Once a thriving fishing port with 20 fish factories, the community has faced a severe decline in fishing due to ocean warming (Carosio, 2020).
The community is particularly vulnerable to ocean warming because it is located in a hot spot, meaning that the warming of the ocean is extraordinarily high in this area. Satellites have recorded a 2°C increase in ocean temperature along the coast of Tombwa since 1982 (WP Company, 2019). To put things into perspective, the average global temperature increase of the ocean surface is 1°C (Bralower, 2021). The temperature rise has resulted in many fish species disappearing (WP Company, 2019). The blacktail seabream has trouble reproducing, while the dusky kob has started to interbreed with another kob species. Moreover, the cunene horse mackerel, an important fish species for the habitants in Tombwa, has declined significantly (Carosio, 2020). Fish species are moving further south where the ocean is cooler, making the future fishing industry uncertain for the Tombwa community.
The warmer ocean has led to a change in wind circulation resulting in weaker winds. The upwelling that used to move hot water away from the coast and bring in cooler water full of nutrients for marine life has been interrupted and has resulted in hypoxia in the ocean along the coast (Carosio, 2020). These climate changes have dire consequences for marine life and the people of Tombwa, who are dependent on fishing and resulting in many of the fish factories being closed.
Despite the decline in the fishing industry, people continue to move to Tombwa from other parts of Angola that fight with drought, which puts further pressure on the community (WP Company, 2019). People who used to work at the fishing factories go out by themselves on homemade floating devices, hoping to catch some fish. Also, fishermen must travel further out on sea than ever before to bring home some fish. At the same time, the oceans along the coast are unregulated, meaning that other countries come to fish in trawlers without permission (WP Company, 2019).
The solution to the threat is that all nations around the globe take responsibility for the high emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that leads to higher temperatures and puts communities such as Tombwa at risk for having a future. According to people in Tombwa, they don’t expect the town to exist in 20-30 years. While they can’t fight the ocean temperatures, They can regulate fishing in the area to prevent overfishing. They are also trying to improve their living conditions by working on a project that prevents sand from moving closer to the city, thus minimizing desert expansion (Agricultiva, n.d.).
Agricultiva. (n.d.). Fighting desertification in Tombwa project. https://agricultiva.com/en/portfolio-item/fighting-desertification-in-tombwa project/#tab-id-2.
Carosio, D. (2020, October 6). Rapid warming is decimating the fishing industry in Angola, a country with low carbon emissions. Sustainable Value Investors. http://en.sustainablevalueinvestors.com/2019/11/27/rapid-warming-is decimating-the-fishing-industry-in-angola-a-country-with-low-carbon-emissions/.
Bralower, T. (2021). Module 6: Ocean circulation and its impact on climate (week 7). Ocean Futures. https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2139645/modules/items/32420442
Tômbua. (2020, December 24). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%B4mbua.
WP Company. (2019, November 27). A crisis in the water is decimating this once-booming fishing town. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/angola-climate-change/.
Karenia brevis Blooms on the Western Florida Coast
Amelia Arthur, Pennsylvania State University
Harmful blooms of Karenia brevis (K. brevis) in the Gulf of Mexico has devastated the fishing communities on the western coast of Florida. Karenia brevis produces a neurotoxin, more specifically, brevetoxins, which are natural neurotoxins that kill their hosts (Effects of..., 2019). During these lethal red tides, primary consumers and shellfish (Hiel, 2021) are the predominant consumers of K. brevis, and their predators become infected through ingestion (Hitting Us…, 2021). Due to the interconnectivity of the food web, K. brevis red have obliterated populations of species in the Gulf of Mexico whether they are microscopic organisms or mammals, some of which are already threatened by other environmental factors like sea turtles and dolphins (Effects of..., 2019).
Algal blooms have especially affected the local fisheries and tourism industry on the western Florida coast. Other states that border the Gulf of Mexico also face the devastating effects of K. brevis blooms. For example, in 2011, oyster harvesting was banned for three months of the six month season due to a bloom; fisheries lost an estimated 10.3 million dollars (Hiel, 2021). Blooms force both fisheries and local fisherman to stop catching fish, which has numerous negative economic effects. Large fisheries can no longer export their goods to other states, which results in millions of dollars worth of losses. In addition to this, local fisherman are left with no source of income. Those who fish to feed themselves and their families now face having no source of food.
Aside from the coastal fishing industry facing losses, shorelines and the cultural values of the western Florida coast are also being destroyed. Between 2004 and 2007, Pinellas, Sarasota, Lee, and Collier, four Florida counties, along with two municipalities, Naples and Longboat Key, reported spending an estimated $785,707 cleaning up the coastline. Florida experienced some intense red tides over the course of those three years, which resulted in mass die-offs of marine life where the dying fish washed ashore and littered the coastline (Hiel, 2021). The coast experiences mass die-offs that require clean up during every bloom. When these die-offs occur, the land loses its cultural values, tourism declines, and other local businesses like restaurants and shops face economic losses as a result of the decline in business. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to stop these algal blooms, but advancements in technology have made it easier to predict when these blooms will occur and help the regions that will be affected prepare more.
Effects of Florida’s Red Tide on marine animals. Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission. (2019). Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission. https://myfwc.com/research/redtide/general/marine-animals/.
Heil, C. et al. (2021, July 22). Life and Death of Karenia brevis Blooms in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. NCCOS Coastal Science Website. https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/project/life-and-death-of-karenia-brevis-blooms-in-the-eastern-gulf-of-mexico/.
Florida satellite imagery. (2021, October 20). NCCOS Coastal Science Website. https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/research/stressor impacts-mitigation/hab-forecasts/gulf-of-mexico/florida-satellite-imagery/.
Hitting US where it hurts: The untold story of harmful algal blooms. (2021, October 7). NOAA Fisheries. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/west-coast/science-data/hitting-us-where-it-hurts-untold-story-harmful-algal-blooms.
Ocean Acidification in Duxbury, Massachusetts
Matthew Bowers, Earth Sustainability Certificate, World Campus
In Duxbury, Massachusetts, ocean acidification is an ever-growing problem that is threatening the shellfish industry. Lying about 30 miles southeast of Boston, Duxbury Bay is home to 18 oyster farming operations, with some harvesting up to one million oysters each month (Burrell, 2017). These oysters and other shellfish are vulnerable to ocean acidification because it lowers the water’s pH, which makes the calcium carbonate that shellfish rely on to build and maintain their shells more soluble. This makes it harder for shellfish to use in their shells. In essence, the acidic water eats away at the protective covering that allows these organisms to survive (Lubofsky, 2019). Projections show that ocean acidification can reduce mollusk survival by 34%, and individuals that survive are 17% smaller (Zuckoff, 2021). This impacts both the quantity and quality of oysters that the farmers in Duxbury harvest. The ocean water in Duxbury Bay today is 30 percent more acidic than it was before the Industrial Revolution, and this is expected to continue to increase (Burrell, 2017). This is because ocean absorbs one third of the world’s CO2 emissions, and these emissions will continue as humans rely on fossil fuels. Additionally, pollution flowing from rivers into the ocean will also intensify the acidification. This includes nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers and sceptic systems that are used throughout the Cape Cod region (Zuckoff, 2021). These pollutants cause algae to grow, and their decomposition leads to acidification of the waters. Overall, the largest impact of acidification on the community of Duxbury is an economic one. The shellfish industry in Massachusetts is massive, making over $450 million annually, and Duxbury is no exception (Zuckoff, 2021). Local jobs will disappear as the oysters living in Duxbury Bay cease to exist. Solutions to this problem include increased monitoring of ocean pH and the saturation state of calcium carbonate via sensors (Lubofsky, 2019). Communicating the sensor data with locals will give fishing and farming operations information that can help direct their course of action. For example, some smaller hatcheries can change the chemistry of their water by adding antacids, which would reduce the corrosivity of the water and allow shellfish to maintain and grow their shells (Burrell, 2017). However, the best solution involves addressing the source of the ocean acidification: carbon emissions and water pollution. Nutrient pollution reduction through the decreased use of fertilizers could improve water quality by up to 80% and alleviate most of the current acidification. This change would need to be implemented by both residents and industries throughout the watershed (Lubofsky, 2019). Overall, in order for Duxbury’s prominent oyster farming industry to survive the next century, large-scale efforts will need to be done to prevent further ocean acidification.
Burrell, C. (2017). Ocean Acidification Is Threatening the Massachusetts Shellfish Industry. GBH. https://www.wgbh.org/news/2017/06/22/science-and-technology/ocean-acidification-threatening-massachusetts-shellfish-industry
Lubofsky, E. (2019). Ocean acidification gets a watchful eye in New England aquaculture ‘hot spot’. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. https://www.whoi.edu/news-insights/content/ocean-acidification-gets-a-watchful-eye-in-new-england-aquaculture-hot-spot/
Zuckoff, E. (2021). Ocean Acidification Could Wipe Out Shellfish Industry: Report. CAI. https://www.capeandislands.org/science-environment/2021-02-10/ocean-acidification-could-wipe-out-shellfish-industry-report
Alaina Burns, Health Policy and Administration, Penn State University
Tombwa, Angola is a village that was once economically fueled by an extremely dominant fishing industry. Now, however, that booming economy is being threatened by a lack of fish due to hypoxia and ocean warming. Locals even say that multiple species of fish have disappeared from the area altogether. It is estimated that the water surrounding Tombwa has warmed almost 2 degrees Celsius, and that it loses 2 percent of its dissolved oxygen per decade. This community is so threatened by ocean warming and hypoxia because it has been found to be an area of particularly fast warming primarily due to the fact that Angola is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world. There are several ways in which this ocean warming and hypoxia have become so threatening to Tombwa’s productivity. First, the warming is harming the blacktail seabream species’ ability to reproduce, but this species is vital to fishermen’s livelihoods. Second, many species are moving southward, including the dusty kob. Third, the lack of oxygen causes primarily only small fish to stay in Tombwan waters, with the larger fish moving to other regions to survive. As for the future of Tombwa, the continuation of the community and its economy looks bleak. It is predicted that the warming and hypoxia will eliminate 20 percent of Angola’s fisheries, many of which have already been lost from Tombwa. The region is poorer, lacking the capacity to handle climate change and its compounding impacts on the environment and, subsequently, impacting the economy. In order to solve the many problems facing the Tombwan community, the government may have to begin controlling the industry more tightly. For example, it has been found that much illegal fishing occurs along this area’s coastline. Privately owned companies with huge vessels are overpowering local fishermen, taking away their resources and depleting the water. Although very little can be done to slow or stop the ocean warming and hypoxia, the government does have the ability to control fishing, which may be the best option to save Tombwa, its economy, and its surrounding environment.
Bearak, M., & Mooney, C. (2019, November 27). A crisis in the water is decimating this once booming fishing town. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/angola-climate-change/.
Blood in the Water: Algae Blooms in Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas
Emma Cox, Earth Science and Climatology, College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
There are many effects of climate change that have begun to impact the United States. Harmful algal blooms are just one of them that are becoming prominent in the mid-south. These algal blooms are characterized by the excessive growth of dinoflagellate organisms due to excessive drainage from sewer systems and fertilizers that provide nutrients. These organisms grow excessively at the surface of water and produce toxins that kill fish, shellfish, or even mammals. Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas has experienced this harmful algal growth due to an upstream drought.
Scientists are not fully sure of what is causing this specifically in the region, but they know it is an accumulation of factors including nutrient run off from farms and drought from increasing temperatures (Allen, 2021). This increase in golden algae blooms is beginning to cause fish to die in the lake and surrounding bodies of water. Over the last several years, the number of reported fish death has increased (Wilson, 2020). This lake is also a reservoir used for water, of which would be no use for local residents if it is contaminated by harmful algae growth (Allen, 2021). The blooms could also decrease the tourism in the area because of the loss of viable recreational fishing locations and has been proven to do that in recent years. This could cause the local community to experience economic stress (NFSC, 2021).
The local Texas government encourages people to report any suspected algae or excessive fish death so that they can keep track of where the outbreaks are to warn people and study them. People have also proposed building dams to lower the severity of droughts occurring in the area. However, this could cause some problems like possible droughts further downstream or a decrease in water quality (Allen, 2021). This increase in droughts can actually cause more harmful algae blooms. The best solution to this issue would most likely be to mitigate the effects of climate change like increasing temperatures and frequencies of droughts by decreasing CO2 output into the atmosphere.
Allen, L.J. (2021, August). A paleolimnological assessment of possum kingdom lake. Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I; Publicly Available Content Database. https://ezaccess.libraries.psu.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/dissertations-theses/paleolimnological-assessment-possum-kingdom lake/docview/2572588663/se-2
Northwest Fisheries Science Center. (2021, October 7). Hitting us where it hurts: the untold story of harmful algal blooms. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/west-coast/science-data/hitting-us-where-it-hurts-untold story-harmful-algal-blooms#what-are-we-doing-about-these-natural-disasters
Wilson, M. (2020, June 10). TPWD: Lake Granbury golden algae fish kill reported. https://www.yourglenrosetx.com/story/news/2020/06/11/tpwd-lake-granbury-golden-algae-fish-kill-reported/113739828/
A Fishing Community Nears a Tipping Point
Rachel Crozier, Political Science, World Campus
Nagapattinam, India, is a town of around 100,000 on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The main industry is fishing. Fish are sold daily in the town markets. Fishing provides food security and income for people living there. While there is little agricultural activity in Nagapattinum, the town’s markets are a center for agricultural trade. The town also has ice factories for preserving fish (“Nagapattinum”).
The fisheries are in danger in the Bay of Bengal. The area has been overfished over decades as the demand has risen and the population increased. Next, as described in a study from the South Asia Journal there is a large dead zone in the Bay, a hypoxic area, upwards of 60,000 sq km (Ahasn). This may be due to rising ocean temperatures, along with pollution from rivers emptying into the bay. The Uppanar River near Nagapattinum is known to be heavily polluted from industry and sewage, according to a study by Usha Damodharan (Damodharan). Because the Bay of Bengal is fished by many communities across several nations, there is some conflict over the area and how it is regulated.
The trends of warming and pollution, combined with overfishing, put the community of Nagapattinum at significant risk. With higher temperatures, the water in the Bay could become increasingly hypoxic, making it uninhabitable for almost any species (Ahsan). The runoff and pollution from the rivers also contribute to algal growth and hypoxia in the region. If the fisheries collapse, the community in Nagapattinum will lose its main industry. As detailed in an article from The Guardian, conflicts with surrounding areas could ensue, as well as mass migration as the people there may be forced to look for new work (Ghosh and Lobo).
The government in India has imposed stricter regulations on fishing, especially trawling, which indiscriminately harms larger species such as turtles and sharks, disrupting the ecosystem (Ghosh and Lobo). They also have cracked down on catches of young fish, confiscating the profits of those violating the regulations (“Crackdown”). Yet, even with the stricter policies, the issues of warming and pollution loom. A coordinated effort to reduce pollution of rivers is needed, along with an effort by all nations to reduce carbon emissions to prevent continued warming. Continued monitoring of fishing practices can help repopulate the marine life in the Bay of Bengal, hopefully restoring the diversity and health of the region.
Ahsan, Q. (2020, October 5). Dead Zone in the Bay of Bengal. South Asia Journal. http://southasiajournal.net/dead-zone-in-the-bay-of-bengal/.
Special Correspondent. (2021, August 31). Crackdown on Juvenile Sardine Fishery with Banned Nets. The Hindu. www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/crackdown-on-juvenile-sardine-fishery-with-banned-nets/article36202885.ece
Damodharan, U. (2013, April 17). Bioaccumulation of Heavy Metals in Contaminated River Water-Uppanar, Cuddalore, South East Coast of India. Perspectives in Water Pollution. DOI: 10.5772/53374
Ghosh, A. & Lobo, A. S. (2017, January 31). Bay of Bengal: Depleted Fish Stocks and Huge Dead Zone Signal Tipping Point. The Guardian. www.theguardian.com/ environment/2017/jan/31/bay-bengal-depleted-fish-stocks-pollution-climate-change migration.
Nagapattinum. (2021, November 7). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagapattinam.
Ocean Acidification in Homer, Alaska
Marabelle DeLaurentis, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Penn State University
Homer is a city in Alaska with a population of 5522 according to the 2020 Census. It has been nicknames the “Halibut Fishing Capital of the World” as well as “ the end of the road” and “the cosmic hamlet by the sea” (Homer, Alaska, 2021). Homer is located on the shore of the Kachemak Bay and has a long gravel bar called the Homer Spit which extends into the bar (Homer, Alaska, 2021) . Like most of Alaska, Homer is threatened by climate change, and more specifically, ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is an issue created by increasing carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere which get absorbed by the ocean. This in turn decreases the pH of the water which increases the acidity. The ocean is 30% more acidic than preindustrial levels (Ocean Acidification…, n.d.) This pH change is very harmful because it weakens shells of clams, damages plankton, interferes with the life cycle of crabs and shellfish, and changes the growth of habitats like kelp (Ocean Acidification…, n.d.).
Alaska as a whole is very vulnerable to ocean acidification because shellfish is key to the Alaskan economy, is a main source of food, and has a lot of cultural significance. In fact, fishing brings in over 5 billion dollars of revenue and provides over 100,000 jobs (Walker, 2014). Homer is especially vulnerable because Halibut and salmon sport fishing, tourism, and commercial fishing are the dominant industries providing a profitable economy for the city (Homer, Alaska, 2021). Additionally, the cold Alaskan water absorb more carbon dioxide which only makes coastal Alaskan communities like Homer more at risk.
As carbon emissions will have lasting impacts, no matter the immediate action, including a decreasing ocean pH, communities, and cities such as Homer will continue to be negatively impacted. One shellfish farmer from Homer has talked about her own experiences. She says over the 14 years owning and operating Alaska Shellfish Farms, she has seen first hand the impacts of climate change (Guest Blogger & Ono, 2020). In 2014 there was a mass mortality of oysters and in 2015, over 10 thousand sea birds starved in Alaska. This was a major ocean acidification event and forced many shellfish growers to find ways to protect themselves. One solution is timing water uptake with non-upwelling events in order to avoid intaking more acidic water that can kill their catches. Additionally, many fisheries that were once solely shellfish farms have expanded to farm oysters that may cope better with acidification (Guest Blogger & Ono, 2020). Lastly, many farmers are raising kelp to absorb CO2 and help reduce acidification. Despite these solutions, the future of Homer residents and farmers will rely on taking immediate action to reduce climate change and carbon emissions. Mass die offs will continue to happen in the future and small-scale farmers may not be able to adapt.
The city of Homer also wrote a comprehensive Climate Action Plan that calls for governmental and community efforts. It includes recommendations residents of Homer can take to prepare for the impending effects of climate change and ocean acidification and claims the city with be proactive in helping create a resilient local economy. The plan also discusses future plans for implementation such as a “sustainability fund” to help promote support the Climate Plan.
Homer, Alaska. (2021). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homer,_Alaska
Walker, S. (2014, July 30). Ocean acidification threatens Alaska’s fishing communities. University of Alaska Fairbanks. https://news.uaf.edu/new-study-reveals-ocean-acidification-threatens-alaska-fisheries-communities/
Ocean Acidification: Understanding Changing Chemistry in Alaska Coastal Waters. (n.d.). National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. https://coastalscience.noaa.gov/project/ocean-acidification-alaska/
Guest Blogger & Ono, R. (2020, July 1). What Climate Change Means for Alaskan Shellfish Farming. Ocean Conservancy. https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2020/07/01/climate-change-means-alaskan-shellfish-farming/
Image sources: https://oceanconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/P8017550.jpg, https://thedriftwoodinn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/map-image.jpg
Ocean Acidification in St. Helena Island, SC
Esteban Galindo-Carvajal, Architecture, Penn State University
St. Helena Island is a community off the coast of South California and part of the Gullah Geechee Nation. As a coastal community, it currently faces an onslaught of climate related issues, one of which is ocean acidification. Local fishermen already report acidity and rising temperatures as the cause for decreased oyster harvests, and declining populations of shrimp and other important baitfish.
The Gullah Geechee Nation coastal communities have a very close relationship to subsistence fishing. For both cultural and economic reasons, fishing is integral to the livelihood of these communities. Community members point to runoff from construction materials in their homes and redirected flooding from the city of Charleston as the reason for acidification of their waters. Whether this is the case specifically or from another source, the fact is that the coastal oceans around these communities are becoming more acidic. This acidification is affecting shelled food staples such as oysters, crab, and shrimp, the last of which is also used as bait for catching larger fish. Decrease in these species affects food supplies and the community’s ability to make a profit from these resources.
Combined with other coastal issues, the communities are forecasted to lose not only their culturally significant fishing, economic ability, but also agricultural capabilities. The combination of these three in addition to rising sea levels and increased overheated days risk economic failure or forced migration.
With these threats in mind, the Gullah Geechee Nation has already pledged to take steps against these threats. The chief of the Gullah Geechee Nation, Marquetta Goodwine (aka Queen Chen) has already spoken at the U.N., founded the Gullah Geechee Sea Island Coalition, and published a set of action plan goals related to ocean acidification. This plan involves solving the threat through a series of steps, the first of which is communicating with scientists, local water resource managers, and lawmakers. The next step focuses on decreasing the nation’s contributions to acidification, followed by addressing impacts of the changing ocean, expanding public awareness regarding acidification, and finally, establishing long-term support for their cause.
Action Plans. (n.d.). OA Alliance. https://www.oaalliance.org/action-plans.
Boraks, D. (2021, October 29). For Gullah Geechee People on the SC Coast, Climate Change Is Already a Threat. WFAE 90.7.
Thomson, K. (2018, October 25). The Gullah/Geechee Nation. Ocean Conservancy. https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2018/10/25/gullah-geechee-nation/.
Algal Blooms in the Chesapeake Bay
Madison Leugemors, Political Science, World Campus
For my third entry, I am focusing on the threat of algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay. There are a few key reasons behind the Chesapeake Bay’s vulnerability to algal blooms. Climate change has played a role in altering the pattern of rainfall and has created more substantial rainfall throughout the Chesapeake area. This has created the issue of excessive nutrient runoff into the bay (McAdory, 2020). Two of these key nutrients are nitrogen and phosphorus, which have increased dramatically in the Chesapeake area. They come from sewage treatment plants, agricultural fields, and industrial facilities (Addressing Nutrient…., 2021). Too much nitrogen and phosphorus support algal growth to a point that the ecosystem can no longer handle it, which is an algal bloom.
Algal blooms can severely impact the surrounding ecosystem. Blooms that are dense can block out sunlight to plants that are underwater. The death of these underwater plants eliminates potential shelter and food for many organisms (McAdory, 2020). Algal blooms can also significantly decrease the amount of oxygen in water. Organisms need this oxygen to survive, and the lack can lead to illnesses and death of numerous fish (The Issue, 2021). Algal blooms can also be harmful to the humans in the community due to elevated toxins. High nitrogen levels can be toxic, and some algae produce toxins like microcystin, which attacks the liver (Ballard & Hovorka, n.d.).
The main solution to algal blooms in the Chesapeake Bay is to improve the water quality by reducing excess nutrient runoff. This started when President Obama recognized the Chesapeake Bay as a national treasure and the federal government lead efforts to restore and protect the bay. The Farm Bill conservation program, implemented by Congress, invests 200 million dollars into the Chesapeake Bay (Ballard & Hovorka, n.d.). The money is used to educate and help farmers reduce their nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. The EPA has also provided information on many cost-friendly tools to reduce water pollution to land managers in this community. Overall, the solution stems from both the government and the members of the community doing their part to stop nutrient runoff.
Addressing Nutrient Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. (2021, July 16). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/nutrient-policy-data/addressing-nutrient-pollution-chesapeake-bay
Ballard, L., & Hovorka, D. (n.d.). Algal Blooms: The Causes, Dangers and Some Solutions. Izaak Walton League of America. https://www.iwla.org/publications/outdoor-america/articles/outdoor-america-2020-issue-2/algal-blooms-the-causes-dangers-and-some-solutions
The Issue. (2021, August 31). US EPA. https://www.epa.gov/nutrientpollution/issue
McAdory, M. (2020, July 6). A harmful algal bloom caught red handed. Chesapeake Bay Program.
Harmful Algal Blooms in Lake Hopatcong, NJ
Joseph McManus, Political Science, Penn State University
Lake Hopatcong is the largest freshwater lake in New Jersey, and it’s surrounded by a small residential community of about 15,000 residents. My grandparents live there, and while growing up I would visit them every summer. I loved riding on my uncle’s boat out into the center of the lake and having a swim on a hot summer day. When I returned in the summer of 2019, though, I was dismayed to find that swimming was banned due to a harmful algal bloom (HAB) that had erupted in the lake. Exposure to water tainted by HABs can cause a number of negative health effects, from rashes to hospitalization in the worst cases.
Lake Hopatcong’s algal blooms are caused by cyanobacteria, which are prokaryotic and able to photosynthesize (Harmful Algal…, n.d.). When they multiply, they can cover the surface of a body of water, giving it a murky green coat that looks like spilled paint (Harmful Algal…, n.d. New Jersey DEP). CyanoHABs, like other types of HABs, emerge when nutrient levels in a body of water are high (3). Other conditions, like hot summer temperatures and lots of direct sunlight, accelerate their growth. Prior to the 2019 bloom, heavy rainfall drenched the lake, which added nitrogen and phosphorous to the water – creating perfect conditions for a bloom (Hopatcong Lake Regional News, 2021).
Tourism, of course, is set to decline in Lake Hopatcong if the water is off-limits. The economy is propped-up by many “snowbirds,” who travel north for the summer, and eliminating the area’s main draw would be a huge detriment. Community leaders are hoping that cyanoHABs do not become an annual phenomenon. However, as climate change creates hotter, wetter conditions, there is a potential for blooms to become a persistent threat. Following the large outbreak in 2019, recurrences appeared in 2020 and 2021, which were monitored closely(Crespolini, 2020; Fassett, 2021).
Water resources experts like Dr. Fred Lubnow of the Princeton Hydro Aquatics Program have advocated for removing phosphorous before it enters the lake. To that end, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has approved $13.5 million in grants for local projects, and Lake Hopatcong was awarded over $200,000 (3). The NJDEP has also developed a reporting tool to warn local residents of elevated HAB counts (HAB events…, 2021). There is a response strategy in place, though it centers on identifying blooms and maintaining public safety, rather than preventing them (Poretti et al., 2020). Lake Hopatcong residents may simply be hostage to global climate trends outside of their control, and must hope for robust government action to quickly reduce emissions.
Harmful Algal Blooms. (n.d.). Lake Hopatcong Commission. https://lakehopatcongcommission.org/index.php/harmful-algal-blooms/
Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) – Division of Water Monitoring and Standards. (n.d.). New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. https://www.nj.gov/dep/hab/
Hopatcong Lake Regional News. (2021, June 15). Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs): Lake Hopatcong Update [Video]. YouTube.
Crespolini, R. (2020, August 12). It’s Baaaack: Algae Bloom Returns Lake Hopatcong. Patch.
Fassett, C. (2021, June 9). Harmful algal blooms are back in N.J. Here’s where. NJ Advance Media. https://www.nj.com/news/2021/06/harmful-algal-blooms-are-back-in-nj-heres-where.html
HAB Events System. (2021, May 4). State of New Jersey. https://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bfbm/cyanoHABevents.html
Poretti, V. et al. (2020, June). 2020 Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Freshwater Recreational Response Strategy. NJ Department of Environmental Protection. https://www.state.nj.us/dep/wms/bfbm/download/NJHABResponseStrategy.pdf
Eyewitness News. (2020, August 19). Swimming prohibited at beach on NJ’s largest lake due to toxic algae. ABC 7. https://abc7ny.com/lake-hopatcong-algae-no-swimming-bloom/6376328/
Morel, K. (2021, May 29). Lake Hopatcong, Greenwood Lake eye rebound from algal blooms, COVID. New Jersey Harald. https://www.njherald.com/story/news/2021/05/29/lake-hopatcong-greenwood-lake-nj-harmful algal-blooms/7466217002/
Hurdle, J. (2021, June 28). Those slimy, green — and harmful — algal blooms are back. Will they stay? NJ Spotlight News. https://www.njspotlightnews.org/2021/06/green-slime-nj-harmful-algal-blooms-back-in-nj-dep-investigates-warns-toxins-irritative-allergenic/
Ocean Acidification and Seafood Production, Chesapeake Bay, Baltimore, MD
Ava Drum, Industrial Engineering, Penn State University Class of 2022
Ocean acidification is the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide, which causes the ocean to become more acidic (The Ocean Portal Team, 2018). Human produced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased greatly since the Industrial Revolution, and about 30% of this carbon dioxide is absorbed by the ocean (Ocean acidification, 2020). As the ocean is absorbing more carbon dioxide, the ocean’s pH is decreasing, which means the ocean is becoming more acidic (The Ocean Portal Team, 2018) and the chemistry of the ocean is quickly changing.
Baltimore, Maryland, is located on the Chesapeake Bay, which is the largest estuary in the United States (Dance, 2017). Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland, with a metro area population of 2.343 million people (Baltimore Metro…, 2022), and this is about 38.09% of the population of Maryland (Maryland Population…, n.d.). This number is significant, because Maryland’s commercial fishing sector is worth $1.240 billion in sales and $335 million in income, which ends up being 2.1% of Maryland’s GDP (Maryland Ocean…, 2022). Baltimore is the center of the state’s seafood sales industry (Wadsworth, 2013) and this community is not only vulnerably economically because of acidification, but also culturally. Seafood in Baltimore, especially the Blue Crab, is important to the culture of the area. Since the 1800s, Baltimore has been the country’s main source of Blue Crabs (Baltimore, Crabs…, 2013), and today, they produce 50% of the Blue Crabs harvested in the country (A Guide…, n.d.). Blue Crabs have helped shape Baltimore’s cuisine, and are now seen as an “attraction” and reason to visit the city (Baltimore, Crabs…, 2013).
Research published in 2017 completed by the University of Delaware indicates ocean acidification is well underway in the Chesapeake. At depths of 30 to 50 feet, pH levels were about one point lower than the normal surface pH of 8.2, making this depth almost 10x more acidic (Dance, 2017). A forecasted impact on the community is the decrease of seafood production. The fast-moving threat of decreasing ocean pH is dissolving the shells of calcifying aquatic organisms, and these organisms do not have enough time to adapt to the changing ocean conditions (The Ocean Portal Team, 2018). Ocean acidification not only effects organism shells, but also the ability to properly grow and reproduce (Maryland Ocean…, 2022). Oysters and clams in the Chesapeake will be most heavily affected by decreasing ocean pH and their ability to develop hard shells. In contrast, ocean acidification will most likely benefit Blue Crabs by growing larger shells. However, Blue Crabs will still be greatly affected since they feed on oysters (Strain, 2015).
Solutions to the ocean acidification threat are to reduce nutrient runoff pollution from farming, to continue aquaculture research into calcifying aquatic organisms (What is…, n.d.), reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions, and improve public awareness (Maryland Ocean…, 2022). Even though the term “ocean acidification” was only first created in 2003, understanding of the topic has grown exponentially (The Ocean Portal Team, 2018). Baltimore, along with the state of Maryland, have taken steps to continue this important research (What is…, n.d.).
 The Ocean Portal Team. (2018, April). Ocean Acidification. Smithsonian Ocean. https://ocean.si.edu/ocean life/invertebrates/ocean-acidification.
 Ocean acidification. (2020, April 1). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. https://www.noaa.gov/education/resource-collections/ocean-coasts/ocean-acidification.
 Dance, S. (2017, October 5). Growing acidification of the Chesapeake Bay threatens crabs, oysters, other life. The Baltimore Sun. https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/environment/bs-md-chesapeake acidification-20170920-story.html.
 Baltimore Metro Area Population 1950-202. (2022). MacroTrends.
 Maryland Population 2021/2022. (n.d.). Population U. https://www.populationu.com/us/maryland-population
 Maryland Ocean Acidification Action Plan 2020. (2022). https://mde.maryland.gov/programs/Air/ClimateChange/MCCC/STWG/OA%20Action%20Plan.pdf
 Wadsworth, C. (2013, July 2). Baltimore crabs: America’s best regional food? USA Today.
 Baltimore, Crabs, and Market Research: What’s Not to Love? (2013, August 21). Observation Baltimore. https://observationbaltimore.com/blog/baltimore-crabs-and-market-research-whats-not-to-love/.
 A Guide to Maryland Crabs. (n.d.). Visit Baltimore.
https://baltimore.org/guides/crabs-guide/ (accessed Apr. 04, 2022).
 Strain, D. (2015, August 8). Will Ocean Acidification Create ‘Super Crabs’ in Bay? Maybe Not. Maryland Sea Grant. https://www.mdsg.umd.edu/onthebay-blog/will-ocean-acidification-create-%E2%80%9Csuper-crabs%E2%80%9D-bay-maybe-not (accessed Apr. 04, 2022).
 WHAT IS OCEAN ACIDIFICATION? (n.d.). [Online]. Available: www.igbp.net
Nicholas Guzman, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Penn State Eberly College of Science
The community of Jinhae-gu is a medium-sized naval town located in the South Gyeongsang province of South Korea. Since the 1970s, this town has been dealing with the negative effects of hypoxia in the waters of Jinhae Bay (Lee et al., 2018). Hypoxia is a condition characterized by dissolved oxygen concentrations in water below 2 mg/L, and it is frequently a problem in the Jinhae Bay due to previous rapid industrialization and the use of aquaculture systems (Hypoxia…, 2019). The community of Jinhae-gu is especially vulnerable to hypoxia due to the system of artificial structures, such as dams and dykes, that connect seawater to freshwater but also inadvertently cause restrictions in water circulation (Lee et al., 2018). Also, rapid industrialization has made it difficult to restrict pollutants that enter the bay from run off, and this also adds to the problem of hypoxia. This lack of circulation causes a decrease in the amount of dissolved oxygen along the coastal waters of the bay, which is a problem for the community as they rely on much of the seafood provided by aquaculture fish and shellfish farms in Jinhae Bay. This problem becomes worse during the summer months, to the point where much of the Jinhae Bay is considered a ‘dead zone’ that makes 54% of the waters unlivable for fish and other aquatic species that are used as a food supply (Lee et al., 2018). This problem has only continued to get worse over the past few decades. As climate change progresses and storms become more frequent, this could potentially act as a positive feedback loop to fuel future hypoxia in the region. A potential solution to this issue involves decreasing the amount of pollution that enters the Jinhae Bay. For this to occur, the South Korean government will likely restrict the amount and/or types of chemicals and nutrients that can be used for farming in the surrounding areas, as heavy nutrient loading of plants has caused a large amount of these chemicals to drain back into Jinhae Bay through freshwater rivers and from storms (Dealing with…, 2018).
Lee, J., Park, K.-T., Lim, J.-H., Yoon, J.-E., & Kim, I.-N. (2018). Hypoxia in Korean coastal waters: A case study of the natural jinhae bay and artificial shihwa bay. Frontiers in Marine Science, 5. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00070.
Hypoxia. (2019, March 14). NOAA. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/hazards/hypoxia/
Dealing with Dead Zones: Hypoxia in the Ocean. (2018, February 22). NOAA. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast/feb18/nop13-hypoxia.html
Ocean Acidification & the Native Alaskan Yupik Community on St. Lawrence Island
Katelynn MacPherson, Psychology, Penn State World Campus
The Bering Sea is considered one of the richest and most productive marine ecosystems on the planet. Stretching from Russia to Alaska, this sea is home to millions of fish, birds, invertebrates, and marine mammals, providing over one third of the commercial fish distributed worldwide and over 25 million pounds of food a year for Alaska Natives (Charles, 2019). These shallow waters have been hit hard by the effects of climate change, with a growing concern for increasing ocean acidification. Up to 50% of global carbon dioxide emissions are absorbed by the world’s oceans, and the cold waters of the North Pacific can absorb even more, leading to a faster rise in ocean acidity as emissions continue to rise (Charles, 2019). Acidification of ocean water has detrimental effects on marine life such as plankton, marine snails, crabs, mussels, oysters, and other seafloor invertebrates that rely on aragonite and calcite to properly develop (Poe, 2015). In turn, this affects the fish and other sea mammals that feed on these smaller marine animals, leading to changes in the overall food web dynamic (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2014).
Native Alaska coastal tribes have depended heavily on the ocean’s resources to satisfy nutritional and cultural needs for thousands of years, including the Yupik community on St. Lawrence Island. This group is particularly dependent on the Pacific walrus, and they have been suffering severe shortages in recent years. Ocean acidification directly affects the walrus’s primary food source: clams and other benthic calcifying organisms. In addition to relying on the walrus as a food source, the Yupik utilize the animal skin and ivory to support indigenous practices and traditions that are integral to their cultural identity (Poe, 2015). Climate change has affected sea ice and weather conditions in ways that have forced these communities to declare walrus harvest disasters and have required government food aid to sustain their populations (Poe, 2015). Studies have shown that the red king crab and the Tanner crab, both commercially and locally important Alaskan crustaceans, respond negatively to high CO2 and lower pH water (NOAA, 2014). Additionally, research shows that fish display reduced respiration rates along with changes in blood chemistry and enzymatic activity when exposed to lower pH waters (Charles, 2019). Increasing global rates of CO2 emissions will contribute to the ongoing acidification of our oceans and increase problems with the fish supply in the Bering Sea, and small coastal Native Alaskan populations, like the Yupik of St. Lawrence Island, are likely to be hit hardest by these effects.
Finding solutions to ocean acidification is crucial in maintaining Alaska’s native subsistence lifestyle as well as the state’s economy. As ocean acidification is a problem created largely through anthropogenic actions, many groups strive to combat these effects though additional human efforts. The Eskimo Walrus Commission, representing the interests of 19 Alaska Native communities, works to manage subsistence hunting and is having success in restoring walrus populations in the Bering Sea (Poe, 2015). However, harvest restrictions do little to address the larger threat of climate change. The Eskimo Walrus Commission additionally focuses on urging the government to reduce CO2 emissions while investing in ocean acidification research and renewable energy accessibility across Alaska (Poe, 2015). Establishing sustainable fishery management in the Bering Sea will be essential for the future demands of our growing global population. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is currently working to establish a fishery ecosystem plan (FEP) to set up proactive and precautionary measures aimed to preserve marine life and guarantee future fish resources. The FEP for the Bering Sea focuses on accurately describing the ecosystem scientifically, assessing ecosystem health and forecasting into the future, and establishing conservation and management measures that include commercial and local interests (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2014). Locally, reducing the amount of fertilizers used and planting sea grass to increase pH in the area would help. As the Bering Sea provides a significant amount of the global fish supply and has a heightened capacity for absorbing CO2, special care must be taken to address the effects of ocean acidification and overall climate change before it is too late.
Charles, R. (2019). Ocean acidification. ScienceBuzz. https://www.sciencebuzz.com/ocean-acidification/
NOAA. (2014). NOAA-led study shows Alaska Fisheries and communities at risk from ocean acidification. https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa led-study-shows-alaska-fisheries-and-communities-at-risk-from-ocean-acidification
Poe, M. (2015). Pacific Walrus and Coastal Alaska Native Subsistence Hunting: Considering Vulnerabilities from Ocean Acidification. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276293722_Pacific_Walrus_and_Coastal_Alaska_Native_Subsistence_Hunting_Considering_Vulnerabilities_from_Ocean_Acidification
The Pew Charitable Trusts. (2014). Ecosystem-based fishery management in the Bering Sea. https://www.pewtrusts.org/-/media/assets/2014/10/ecosystem-based-fishery-management-in-the-bering-sea.pdf