Expert Report

Review of the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Plan (2013)

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The world's ocean has already experienced a 30% rise in acidity since the industrial revolution, with acidity expected to rise 100 to 150% over preindustrial levels by the end of this century. Potential consequences to marine life and also to economic activities that depend on a healthy marine ecosystem are difficult to assess and predict, but potentially devastating. To address this knowledge gap, Congress passed the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring (FOARAM) Act in 2009, which, among other things, required that an interagency working group create a "Strategic Plan for Federal Research and Monitoring of Ocean Acidification." This National Research Council (NRC ) report reviews the strategic plan on the basis of how well it fulfills program elements laid out in the FOARAM Act and follows the advice provided to the working group in the NRC's 2010 report, Ocean Acidification: A National Strategy to Meet the Challenges of a Changing Ocean. This report concludes that, overall, the plan is strong and provides a comprehensive framework for improving our understanding of ocean acidification. Potential improvements include a better defined strategy for implementing program goals, stronger integration of the seven broad scientific themes laid out in the FOARAM Act, and better mechanisms for coordination among federal agencies and with other U.S. and international efforts to address ocean acidification.

Key Messages

  • The Strategic Plan presents a comprehensive framework for improving our understanding of ocean acidification, broadly defined to span the physical, chemical, biological, and socioeconomic sciences.
  • The Strategic Plan follows the seven themes laid out in the FOARAM Act, but it treats the themes largely as independent sets of activities without elaborating on how coordination among the agencies and integration of themes will be accomplished.
  • The following modifications would strengthen the Strategic Plan:
    -Articulate a clear vision statement that conveys the importance of ocean resources to society and how ocean acidification might impact these resources.
    -Describe a process and criteria by which the IWGOA will set priorities within and among themes.
    -Develop a process for periodic reevaluation of priorities, including metrics to evaluate progress towards the Program's goals.
    -Describe a process that would ensure better integration across the seven Themes and illustrate the interrelationships among the themes.
    -Specify a mechanism for coordination among federal agencies and with other ocean acidification efforts in the U.S. and abroad.
  • The establishment of a National Ocean Acidification Program Office—as called for in the Strategic Plan—could play a central role in coordinating and integrating activities of the program, but the Strategic Plan needs to provide greater clarity about the creation, function, and governance of such an office.