NOAA OCEAN ACIDIFICATION PROGRAM
Ocean acidification is occurring because the world’s oceans are absorbing increasing amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, leading to lower pH and greater acidity. This is literally causing a sea change and fundamentally changing the chemistry of the ocean from pole to pole.
Ocean acidification generally refers to a pronounced shift in ocean chemistry in response to the uptake of rapidly increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, but can also be caused by other chemical additions or subtractions from the ocean. Anthropogenic ocean acidification refers to the component of chemical change that is caused by human activity (IPCC: Workshop on Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biology and Ecosystems). Over the last 250 years, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased from 280 parts per million to over 400 parts per million due to the burning of fossil fuels (e.g., coal, gas, oil) and land use change (for instance, conversion of natural forest into crop production). Ocean acidification has potentially devastating ramifications for all ocean life; from the smallest, single celled algae to the largest whales.
As a requirement of the FOARAM Act of 2009, the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program was officially established in May 2011. The NOAA OAP is an integral part of a much broader US research effort to increase our understanding about how (and how fast) the chemistry of the ocean is changing, how variable that change is by region, and what impacts these changes are having on marine life, people, and the local, regional, and national economies.
NOAA is coordinating closely with other federal agencies which have strong ocean acidification research or policy portfolios. These include the National Science Foundation (NSF), United States Geological Survey (USGS), National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), Bureau of Energy Management (BOEM), Department of State (DOS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USF&W), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Defense (DOD), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Park Service (NPS), and Department of Energy (DOE). See the Interagency Working Group for further information.