The US shellfishery communities that are most vulnerable to the effects of ocean acidification are identified by a study published online this week in Nature Climate Change.
Much of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels ends up in the oceans, making them more acidic. Shelled molluscs are especially sensitive to changes in ocean acidity and many coastal communities in the United States are economically dependent on these organisms.
Julia Ekstrom and colleagues assessed multiple economic and social risk factors associated with ocean acidification, focusing on the reliance of US coastal regions on shelled mollusc harvests and the capacity of these communities to adapt to reductions in harvests. They found that 16 out of 23 regions in the US are exposed to rapid acidification, with marine ecosystems around the Pacific Northwest and Southern Alaska expected to be affected soonest.
When adaptive capacity (indicated by status of OA government policies, employment alternatives and availability of science, for example) is combined with economic dependency on shelled molluscs, the authors report that the most vulnerable communities lie along the East Coast of the US and Gulf of Mexico. This analysis demonstrates varied causes of vulnerability along the US coastline and the authors identify opportunities to adapt through specifically tailored local actions, as well as highlighting important gaps in knowledge and information that should be adressed to facilitate adaptation.