Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8500
Title: Estimates of the Direct Effect of Seawater pH on the Survival Rate of Species Groups in the California Current Ecosystem
Author: D. S. Busch, Paul McElhany
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: PLoS ONE
Volume: 11
Issue: 8
Pages: e0160669
DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160669
Keywords: Ocean acidification,meta-analyses,species response experiments,California Current

Ocean acidification (OA) has the potential to restructure ecosystems due to variation in species
sensitivity to the projected changes in ocean carbon chemistry. Ecological models can
be forced with scenarios of OA to help scientists, managers, and other stakeholders understand
how ecosystems might change. We present a novel methodology for developing estimates
of species sensitivity to OA that are regionally specific, and applied the method to the
California Current ecosystem. To do so, we built a database of all published literature on the
sensitivity of temperate species to decreased pH. This database contains 393 papers on
285 species and 89 multi-species groups from temperate waters around the world.
Research on urchins and oysters and on adult life stages dominates the literature. Almost a
third of the temperate species studied to date occur in the California Current. However,
most laboratory experiments use control pH conditions that are too high to represent average
current chemistry conditions in the portion of the California Current water column where
the majority of the species live. We developed estimates of sensitivity to OA for functional
groups in the ecosystem, which can represent single species or taxonomically diverse
groups of hundreds of species. We based these estimates on the amount of available evidence
derived from published studies on species sensitivity, how well this evidence could
inform species sensitivity in the California Current ecosystem, and the agreement of the
available evidence for a species/species group. This approach is similar to that taken by the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to characterize certainty when summarizing
scientific findings. Most functional groups (26 of 34) responded negatively to OA conditions,
but when uncertainty in sensitivity was considered, only 11 groups had relationships that
were consistently negative. Thus, incorporating certainty about the sensitivity of species
and functional groups to OA is an important part of developing robust scenarios for ecosystem

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management
Understand how climate influences ecosystem variability.