Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia in the SF Estuary

Researching and monitoring the potential threats to the Estuary of ocean acidification and hypoxia.

Project At a Glance

Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia in the Estuary Blueprint

Although ocean acidification is a global phenomenon, emerging research indicates that the West Coasts of the United States and Canada will face some of the earliest, most severe changes in ocean carbon chemistry. However, the current status and impacts of ocean acidification on the San Francisco Estuary are largely unknown.

Advice from Bay Area and West Coast experts is needed to understand the likely impacts of ocean acidification in the Estuary and to develop cost effective monitoring strategies. Not only is ocean acidification a global effect of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, but it is also exacerbated in urbanized, eutrophic estuaries (local hypoxia and acidification go hand-in-hand). A growing body of research indicates that ocean acidification might affect water quality and biological communities in the Bay, but it is not clear where this problem should sit on the priority list for water quality managers or regulators. In particular, ocean acidification could impact species such as the Olympia oyster (now making a local recovery and considered a useful shoreline protection builder); Chinook, coho, and steelhead salmon; as well as the pelagic food web. Impacts can be complicated by changes in nitrogen cycling.

Estuary Blueprint Action 29: Engage the scientific community in efforts to improve baseline monitoring of ocean acidification and hypoxia effects in the Estuary. 


Workshop on Monitoring for Acidification Threats in West Coast Estuaries: A San Francisco Bay Case Study

A workshop in October 2016 brought together scientists from throughout the West Coast of the United States, leading researchers on San Francisco Bay, the region’s largest estuary, and representatives from a variety of management agencies. The main objectives of the Workshop were to assess whether acidification is of concern in the Bay and to identify its potential impacts to beneficial uses, cost-effective monitoring strategies, and potential management actions. Although the Bay was the case study, the aim was to develop general guidance that could be applied to West Coast estuaries.

Read the workshop summary report 

Expanding Monitoring Efforts in the San Francisco Estuary 

A five-foot tall, bright yellow buoy anchored just offshore San Francisco State University’s Estuary and Ocean Science (EOS) Center was deployed in February 2018. The Bay Ocean Buoy (BOB) and its companion mooring for Marine Acidification Research Inquiry (MARI) represents the first effort to perform long-term scientific monitoring of ocean acidity and carbon dioxide in the waters of the Bay. The newly deployed BOB and MARI moorings carry sensors for measuring carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the water, dissolved oxygen, pH, chlorophyll-a (a measure of the amount of microscopic algae in the water), water clarity, temperature, and salinity. The sensors will make measurements at the surface and deep in the Bay where ocean waters flow in.

This project advances the following Estuary Blueprint goals and actions

Habitats and Living Resources
Water Quality and Quantity

Action 29