By Karen Marvin

When Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire announced the recommendations of a Blue Ribbon Panel on ocean acidification – a new threat to the state's shellfish industry – it was the culmination of nearly a year of work by Meg Caldwell, Stanford Woods Institute senior lecturer and executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions (COS).

At the panel’s request, Caldwell had advised Ryan Kelly, a Woods postdoctoral scholar and COS early career fellow, and Jenny Grote Stoutenburg, the authors of a special report titled "Washington State's Legal and Policy Options for Combating Ocean Acidification in State Waters." The panel referred to the analysis in its deliberations and included a copy of the report in its final recommendations, released Nov. 27.

Acidification is brought on by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and other pollutants such as fertilizer run-off. Worldwide, carbon dioxide pollution is changing ocean chemistry more rapidly than anything in at least the past 300 million years. As of 2009, the U.S. ocean economy accounted for $222 billion in revenue and 2.5 million jobs in coastal states alone. Protecting this economy will depend on more effective implementation of existing laws as well as increased monitoring, research and limiting of carbon dioxide.

COS staff have been working extensively on the relatively new issue, focusing on solutions to local acidification drivers around the world. Earlier this year, Caldwell and Ryan met with White House science advisors to discuss ocean acidification and a report on the subject that COS produced for the State of California. The report shows that increasing ocean acidification could pose significant threats to ocean resources for food, recreation, tourism dollars and other ecosystem services.

More recently, Caldwell and Ryan co-authored an article on criteria for acidification treatment action under the Clean Water Act for The Environmental Law Forum, a publication of the Environmental Law Institute.


Photo by Alexander Baxevanis