Understanding how Eelgrass Can Reduce Ocean Acidification Impacts


Global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions are changing the carbonate chemistry in seawater. The absorption of carbon dioxide by oceans causes a series of chemical reactions known as ocean acidification. In contrast to the gradually decreasing pH predictions for the open ocean, the Salish Sea is currently experiencing pH levels predicted for 2100 episodically, due to estuarine processes such as seasonal upwelling. Ocean Acidification is detrimental to many marine organisms. Shellfish growers have experienced oyster seed declines due to the exacerbation of ocean acidification due to seasonal upwelling and are already having to adapt their management strategies. In nearshore habitats of the Salish Sea, eelgrass meadows have been identified as potential mitigators of ocean acidification, as eelgrass absorbs dissolved carbon dioxide and bicarbonate through photosynthesis.

The purpose of this project is to experimentally test the ability of eelgrass to mitigate ocean acidification and to identify eelgrass habitat in the Salish Sea that could provide refuge from ocean acidification for commercially important shellfish. This project will provide information that managers can use to improve management strategies for shellfish restoration.