Science Inventory

Measuring Coastal Acidification Using In Situ Sensors in the National Estuary Program

Citation:

Galavotti, H., J. Vasslides, M. Poach, C. Bohlen, C. Hunt, M. Liebman, X. Hu, M. McCutcheon, J. Ammerman, J. O'Donnell, K. Howard-Strobel, P. Vella, J. Lehrter, K. Nielsen, J. Largier, T. Ford, A. Steele, Y. Johnson, K. Yates, Cheryl A. Brown, AND S. Pacella. Measuring Coastal Acidification Using In Situ Sensors in the National Estuary Program. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, 2021.

Impact/Purpose:

Estuaries and coastal areas are highly vulnerable to the impacts of acidification on shellfish, coral reefs, fisheries and the commercial and recreational industries that they support. Comprehensive, high resolution monitoring data are needed at varying spatial and temporal scales to provide actionable information tailored to each estuary. This EPA Report details the experiences of ten U.S. National Estuary Programs (NEP) and their partners in conducting coastal acidification monitoring using autonomous pH and pCO2 sensors over the last five years. The report illustrates the monitoring goals, deployment methods, data analysis, costs, preliminary results, lessons learned and the role of partnerships in their successes. This monitoring is successfully capturing the high-resolution data necessary to better understand the vulnerability of these estuaries to acidification impacts and the drivers responsible for changes in pCO2 and associated acidification. There are regional differences in the drivers of acidification, particularly the influence of upwelling events, nutrient driven acidification and other land-based influences. The primary intended audience is the NEPs and others who are conducting this monitoring for information sharing and technology transfer. In addition, this report benefits a wide variety of stakeholders - from state legislators to shellfish growers to concerned citizens - who are interested in advancing the understanding of acidification drivers in order to protect their vulnerable estuaries from the impacts of acidification. 

Description:

Estuaries and coastal areas are highly vulnerable to the impacts of acidification on shellfish, coral reefs, fisheries and the commercial and recreational industries that they support. Yet, little is known about the extent of this vulnerability and the estuary-specific drivers that contribute to acidification, such as nutrient enrichment from stormwater, agriculture and wastewater discharges, upwelling of CO2-rich seawater, elevated atmospheric CO2 from urban and agricultural activities, benthic and marsh-driven processes, and alkalinity and carbon content of freshwater flows. Comprehensive, high resolution monitoring data are needed at varying spatial and temporal scales to provide actionable information tailored to each estuary. Because carbonate chemistry in the coastal environment can be affected by nutrient dynamics, understanding how nutrient inputs exacerbate acidification impacts is essential for the formulation of estuary-specific actions. The purpose of this report is to share the EPA’s approach to longterm coastal acidification monitoring in which it initiated the use of autonomous monitoring sensors for dissolved carbon dioxide (pCO2) and pH deployed in situ in estuaries across the country through the EPA’s National Estuary Programs (NEP) and their partners. This approach captures the high-resolution data that are needed to understand variability associated with acidification and ultimately to inform trends and mitigation and adaptation strategies for these vulnerable systems. This report details the plans and experiences of ten NEPs geographically distributed around the U.S. coast and their partners in conducting this monitoring over the last four years (2015 – 2019). The report illustrates the monitoring goals, deployment methods, data analysis, costs, preliminary results, and the role of partnerships in their successes. The preliminary results have already improved our understanding of baseline carbonate chemistry conditions in these estuaries, the factors affecting spatial and temporal variability, and the drivers responsible for changes in pCO2 and associated acidification. The sensors are successfully capturing seasonal variability and finer temporal trends that provide information on diel variability, physical processes (e.g., weather, tides), and biological activity which cannot be captured with discrete sampling alone. The preliminary data indicate that there are regional differences in the drivers of acidification, particularly the influence of upwelling events vs. land-based freshwater sources.

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT ( PUBLISHED REPORT/ REPORT)
Product Published Date: 05/07/2021
Record Last Revised: 05/07/2021
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 351630