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Co-locating Field Observations with Biological Sampling

Combining observations of seawater chemistry with biological samples taken in the same place and at the same time offers a powerful means of assessing the status and trends of ocean acidification and its impacts in Washington waters. Such observations can enhance our understanding of underlying processes and contribute to responsive management of Washington’s marine resources and adaptive strategies.

The Washington Ocean Acidification Center works with partners to initiate new observations and expand current monitoring activities. In 2014, the Center collaborated with NOAA and other partners to establish a sustained seasonal field sampling program in Washington waters. This investment has yielded valuable data on seawater chemistry plus information on selected species of zooplankton, including pteropods, which serve as highly sensitive indicators of biological responses to ocean acidification. Zooplankton abundance is critical to the persistence of forage fish species, salmon species, and marine birds and mammals, including the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales. Robust commercial and recreational fisheries rely on healthy zooplankton populations. Data collected by the Washington Ocean Acidification Center and its partners been shared with the U.S. EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology for their use in assessing Washington’s water quality and biological impacts associated ocean acidification.

The backbone of the monitoring system that now exists can be strategically leveraged to support co-location of field observations and biological sampling. Continuation of these time series will provide data that allows state and tribal managers and others to better understand the dynamics of regional food webs under changing ocean conditions.

The Center and its NOAA partners work with shellfish growers to sustain seawater monitoring in shellfish hatcheries and at grow-out sites in the Salish Sea and Willapa Bay. The data collected help shellfish growers improve production while helping scientists and others to deepen their understanding of seawater conditions from ocean to nearshore.