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The next decade of Alaskan Ocean Acidification Research: What we learned, where 2020 fits, and what’s coming next for the Bering Sea

February 16, 2021 @ 10:00 am to 11:00 am AKST

Speaker: Jessica Cross, Oceanographer, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

Over the last decade, ocean acidification (OA) has emerged as one of the most prominent issues in Alaskan marine research, and a possible threat to culturally and commercially important marine resources. Multiple communities around the state are now engaged in their own OA studies and monitoring, and are asking a common question: what risks does my region face? These are especially salient questions for Alaskans, given that the intensity, duration and extent of OA events have been greater than other ocean basins. Given the pace of the observed changes due to OA around Alaska, the area is commonly referred to as a bellwether and the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the global ocean. Here, we will take a look back at the last ten years of OA research in the Bering Sea, and highlight new, cutting-edge biogeochemical modeling, forecasting, and projection efforts that have dramatically increased our capacity to understand Alaskan OA from a large-scale perspective just in the past year. For example, we have scaled point observations to the entire Bering Sea shelf to show that corrosive conditions have covered almost 60% of critical habitat areas in the last ten years, and forecasts indicate that 2020 was even more strongly corrosive compared to the 2003-2019 average. These new insights have been quickly picked up by our colleagues engaged in ongoing laboratory studies of species-specific OA vulnerability and larger-scale ecosystem and bioeconomic analyses of OA impact. Our goal is to continue refining our capacity to identify new risks and emerging resilience of Alaskan ecosystems, and guide sound, evidence-based decisions that support sustainable marine resources in the future.