Recommended priorities for research on ecological impacts of ocean and coastal acidification in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic
The estuaries and continental shelf system of the United States Mid-Atlantic are subject to ocean acidification driven by atmospheric CO2, and coastal acidification caused by nearshore and land-sea interactions that include biological, chemical, and physical processes. These processes include freshwater and nutrient input from rivers and groundwater; tidally-driven outwelling of nutrients, inorganic carbon, alkalinity; high productivity and respiration; and hypoxia. Hence, these complex dynamic systems exhibit substantial daily, seasonal, and interannual variability that is not well captured by current acidification research on Mid-Atlantic organisms and ecosystems. We present recommendations for research priorities that target better understanding of the ecological impacts of acidification in the U. S. Mid-Atlantic region. Suggested priorities are: 1) Determining the impact of multiple stressors on our resource species as well as the magnitude of acidification; 2) Filling information gaps on major taxa and regionally important species in different life stages to improve understanding of their response to variable temporal scales and sources of acidification; 3) Improving experimental approaches to incorporate realistic environmental variability and gradients, include interactions with other environmental stressors, increase transferability to other systems or organisms, and evaluate community and ecosystem response; 4) Determining the capacity of important species to acclimate or adapt to changing ocean conditions; 5) Considering multi-disciplinary, ecosystem-level research that examines acidification impacts on biodiversity and biotic interactions; and 6) Connecting potential acidification-induced ecological impacts to ecosystem services and the economy. These recommendations, while developed for the Mid-Atlantic, can be applicable to other regions will help align research towards knowledge of potential larger-scale ecological and economic impacts.