OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU to lead project exploring ocean’s response to increasing acidification

09/26/2012

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A West Coast network of researchers has received a grant of nearly $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to analyze the ecological and biological response to ocean acidification in the California Current System.

Oregon State University is the lead institution on the project, which also includes researchers from the University of California, Davis; Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; University of California, Santa Cruz; University of Hawaii, Manoa; and University of California, Santa Barbara.

The researchers will focus much of their attention on a mussel, Mytilus californianus, a widespread component of the rocky intertidal zone and an important test subject for understanding ocean chemistry changes. Their previous research found that the growth, survival and shell strength of the mussel larvae are significantly affected in a negative way by elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the ocean water.

“We know that increasing ocean acidification has the potential to threaten the viability of mussels and other shellfish,” said Bruce Menge, a distinguished professor of zoology at Oregon State and principal investigator on the project. “In this new effort, we will explore when negative impacts begin to occur and how the organisms actually respond in different environments, whether localized or large-scale.”

The researchers will conduct field and laboratory experiments across a network of 10 near-shore ocean acidification monitoring sites that span 1,400 kilometers of the coastline. By combining experiments with a sensor network that will continuously measure ocean pH changes, the researchers will be able to examine the sensitivity and potential resilience to ocean acidification among mussel populations that are spread along much of the West Coast of the United States.

Co-principal investigators on the project include Jack Barth, OSU College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, and Francis Chan, an ecologist in the OSU College of Science.

Menge, Barth and Chan are principal investigators with PISCO, the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, which also is a multi-institution research effort led by Oregon State. During the past several years, they have documented and helped explain increasing incidence of hypoxia, or low-oxygen water, in the near-shore ocean off Oregon, which has led to biological “dead zones.”