OSU researchers part of new panel on ocean acidification, hypoxia

Sunset over the ocean

The suns sets over the Pacific Ocean in Yachats, Ore. A new panel of scientists is going to investigate the extent, causes, and effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia along the Pacific coastline. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Governor Kitzhaber has announced that Oregon is joining with the state of California to establish a new panel to focus on the extent, causes, and effects of ocean acidification and hypoxia along the Pacific coastline. Five Oregon State University researchers will participate on the new panel.

The West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel will bring together scientists from Oregon, California, Washington, and British Columbia to develop strategic recommendations for researching and monitoring ocean acidification and hypoxia in the Pacific Ocean.

“OSU scientists have been leading the way in monitoring and understanding the influence of changing acidity and oxygen levels on ocean and coastal health,” said Jack Barth, Ph.D., a professor and associate dean in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “We all know that ocean currents and habitats don’t stop at any one state’s borders, so we welcome this regional approach.”

Oceans have become more acidic globally, and rising acidity levels have been identified as a potential threat to shellfish and other marine life and to the thousands of jobs that depend upon them. Further, hypoxia, or low oxygen conditions, off the West Coast is a poorly understood phenomenon that also threatens marine resources. Better-coordinated science that identifies data gaps is critical to understanding and addressing possible impacts.

“Scientists are learning that ocean acidification is hitting waters off the West Coast earlier and harder than elsewhere on the planet,” said Governor Kitzhaber. “We need a comprehensive and collaborative approach to better understand what this may mean for West Coast fisheries, Oregon’s rich natural resources, and the people who live on and visit the Oregon coast.”

The newly formed panel includes experts from the fields of chemical and physical oceanography, biogeochemistry, marine biology, ecology and physiology. The multi-disciplinary collaboration will evaluate how ocean processes may contribute to regionally distinct reactions to changing pH levels and attempt to better understand the relationship between acidification and hypoxia.

The Institute for Natural Resources at Oregon State University and its counterpart California Ocean Science Trust will use their expertise in integrating science with management and decision-making to guide and staff the science panel. These institutions will serve as the link between the science panel and government decision-makers.

The science panel will convene periodically throughout 2014. The panel will build upon the work of the State of Washington’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification and consult with that panel’s members.


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