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Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification


Ocean acidification is a global, long-term problem whose ultimate solution requires carbon dioxide reduction at a scope and scale that will take decades to accomplish successfully. Until that is achieved, feasible and locally relevant adaptation and mitigation measures are needed. To help to prioritize societal responses to ocean acidification, we present a spatially explicit, multidisciplinary vulnerability analysis of coastal human communities in the United States. We focus our analysis on shelled mollusc harvests, which are likely to be harmed by ocean acidification. Our results highlight US regions most vulnerable to ocean acidification (and why), important knowledge and information gaps, and opportunities to adapt through local actions. The research illustrates the benefits of integrating natural and social sciences to identify actions and other opportunities while policy, stakeholders and scientists are still in relatively early stages of developing research plans and responses to ocean acidification.

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Figure 1: Conceptual framework structuring the analysis of vulnerability to ocean acidification.
Figure 2: Overall vulnerability of places to ocean acidification.
Figure 3: Sample of gaps in knowledge related to OA vulnerability, organized around components of the framework.


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This work was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation DBI-1052875. Support for R.v.H. to generate model projections was provided by NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program. We thank the institutions and individuals that provided data (see Supplementary Information for full details), and W. McClintock and his laboratory for use of to enable collaborative discussions of spatial data and analysis. We are grateful for the contributions and advice provided by E. Jewett throughout the project.

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All authors provided input into data analysis and research design, and participated in at least one SESYNC workshop; J.A.E. led the drafting of the text with main contributions from L.S., S.R.C., L.H.P., G.G.W. and J.E.C.; R.v.H. contributed projections of ocean acidification; L.H.P. contributed shelled mollusc diversity scores; J.A.E., L.S., S.R.C., J.R., L.H.P. and C.D. collected the data; J.A.E. carried out data analysis and mapping.

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Correspondence to Julia A. Ekstrom.

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Ekstrom, J., Suatoni, L., Cooley, S. et al. Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification. Nature Clim Change 5, 207–214 (2015).

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