Ocean Acidification

Paul G. Allen Family Foundation’s Ocean Challenge

In spring 2013, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation issued a challenge for promising ideas on how to reduce the impact of ocean acidification. PSRF and a topnotch team of collaborators gamely threw together a concept proposal to test out one of the Key Early Actions identified in the Blue Ribbon Panel report (Action 6.1.1). Based on the notion that kelps and seaweeds naturally draw down CO2 in marine water, and that seaweeds are a prolific biological resource in Puget Sound, the PSRF team proposed to cultivate seaweeds at three demonstration sites, assess the effect on carbonate chemistry, and harvest the biomass to create a suite of products (fertilizer, food, fuel).

A total of 36 concepts were received from 7 countries and evaluated by a team of experts. In the fall of 2013, PSRF received word that our submission was selected as one of six Ocean Challenge finalists! Information about the Ocean Challenge can be found at: http://www.pgafamilyfoundation.org/oceanchallenge/TemplateMain.aspx?cont...

In the coming years, PSRF hopes to launch a multi-year investigation to see if cultivating seaweeds can reduce CO2, create localized sanctuaries for sensitive marine organisms, and generate useful products for the marketplace that could eventually pay for the operation.

Puget Sound Restoration Fund Awarded $1.5 Million Grant by Paul G. Allen
Oceans Challenge grant will support research on seaweed cultivation as a potential strategy for mitigating ocean acidification

On April 16, 2015, ,The Puget Sound Restoration Fund formally announced it has been awarded a $1.5 million grant by The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to investigate seaweed cultivation as a potential strategy for mitigating ocean acidification. The initiative, Cultivating Seaweeds in Puget Sound to Protect Shellfish and other sensitive species from Ocean Acidification, will be led by Dr. Jonathan (Joth) Davis, senior scientist, and Betsy Peabody, executive director, at the Puget Sound Restoration Fund in collaboration with the University of Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among many other partners.

The grant was first announced on April 2 at the Seattle Aquarium during the Addressing Ocean Acidification: Innovation, Cooperation and Leadership event. Over the project’s five-year timeline, it aims to harness the ability of marine macro algae to extract dissolved carbon dioxide and other excess nutrients in order to mitigate ocean acidification and eutrophication in Puget Sound. This will have the potential to create protective halos in the vicinity of the seaweed that may provide critical habitat for marine species and valuable by-products such as food, bio-fuels and fertilizers.

“Collaborators in Washington State have made huge strides to spotlight the problem, document chemical changes and biological effects, and adapt within hatchery systems,” said Betsy Peabody, founder of the Puget Sound Restoration Fund. “We need to make equally huge strides in developing strategies to mitigate these effects within marine systems, and this grant from The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation gives us an incredible opportunity to do so.”

Serving as the project lead, the Puget Sound Restoration Fund will implement the cultivation component of the project, provide expertise for the development and management of seaweed cultivated in north Hood Canal and provide shore and sea-based support and sampling expertise to the assessment and modeling teams.

“Paul Allen is committed to supporting innovative programs and research to address the most pressing perils facing our ocean today,” said Dune Ives, co-manager of The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. “The Puget Sound Restoration Fund’s proposal has an approach and methodology that has the potential to make a significant impact, and we are excited to partner and collaborate with such well-respected organizations to develop tools and solutions to combat declining ocean health.”

Over the last 150 years, atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from 290 ppm to 395 ppm, and as a result, the ocean is absorbing increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and lowering surface water pH. Ocean acidification, together with changes in ocean temperature, salinity, and stratification, is impacting the global ocean ecosystem and potentially threatening marine food supplies. Paul G. Allen’s philanthropic efforts support organizations and individuals who take innovative approaches and leverage technology to address declining ocean health.

NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory will provide scientific oversight and specific expertise on all components related to assessing changes in the carbonate chemistry of seawater. NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center will provide both expertise and the significant infrastructure necessary to enable the Puget Sound Restoration Fund to effectively cultivate kelp sporophytes at the Manchester NOAA Laboratory.

The University of Washington, Applied Physics Laboratory will provide scientific oversight and specific expertise on all components related to assessing changes in the carbonate chemistry of seawater as it may be influenced by passage through dense assemblages of seaweeds.           

Detailed list of project partners:

·      Puget Sound Restoration Fund

·      NOAA, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory

·      NOAA, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

·      University of Washington, Applied Physics Laboratory

·      Washington Ocean Acidification Center

·      System Science Applications

·      Washington Department of Natural Resources

·      Washington Sea Grant

·      Anchor QEA

Advisory Team Members:

·      Dr. Conrad Mahnken (Commissioner, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Commission; Former Director, Northwest Marine Fisheries Service,
       Manchester Research Station)

·      Dr. Tom Mumford (Head of Marine Agronomics; Formerly a Science Advisor with Washington Department of Natural Resources)

·      Dr. Terrie Klinger (Director, University of Washington, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs)

·      Dr. John Forster (President, Forster Consulting)


About The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation

Founded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen and his sister Jody Allen in 1988, the Allen family’s philanthropy is dedicated to transforming lives and strengthening communities by fostering innovation, creating knowledge and promoting social progress. Since inception, the Foundation has awarded over $529 million to more than 1,500 nonprofit groups to support and advance their critical charitable endeavors in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The Foundation’s funding programs nurture the arts, engage children in learning, address the needs of vulnerable populations, advance scientific and technological discoveries, and provide economic relief amid the downturn. For more information, go to www.pgafamilyfoundation.org.

Oyster Emergency Monitoring, 2009 – 2010

Ocean acidification in Puget Sound was first observed by the shellfish industry. Larval mortalities in select hatcheries and natural set failures in Hood Canal and Willapa Bay created growing alarm over the potential effects of corrosive seawater. Subsequent studies revealed that seasonal upwelling of deep oceanic waters was bringing carbon-rich, low pH water to the surface, which was adversely affecting molluscan bivalve larvae reared in hatchery facilities. This raised larger questions about whether chemical changes in seawater were affecting natural populations of shellfish as well. To investigate this further, the Puget Sound Partnership awarded a grant to PSRF, NOAA, UW, PSI and Baywater, Inc. to establish index stations at two important shellfish growing areas in Puget Sound– Big Cove, Totten Inlet in southern Puget Sound and Dabob Bay in Hood Canal. Click here for more information.


Washington State Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, 2012

In March 2012, as part of the Washington Shellfish Initiative, Governor Gregoire appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel on ocean acidification to advance our scientific understanding and develop an action plan to reduce harmful effects on Washington’s shellfish and other marine resources. Bill Ruckelshaus and Jay Manning led a 28-member team that developed a set of 42 recommended actions, released in November 2012. PSRF’s executive director, Betsy Peabody, served on the panel alongside tribal, state, federal, and policy experts, scientists, public opinion leaders and industry representatives. A copy of the final report can be found on Department of Ecology’s website at: http://www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oa/2012panel.html


Marine Resources Advisory Council, 2013

The 2013 legislature appointed the Marine Resources Advisory Council, within the Governor's office, to maintain a sustainable coordinated focus on ocean acidification. In 2014, PSRF’s Betsy Peabody worked with the Advisory Committee to develop mitigation and outreach/education proposals to further the work of the Blue Ribbon Panel and to gain traction on specific recommendations. More information about the Marine Resources Advisory Council is available at: www.ecy.wa.gov/water/marine/oceanacidification.html