Ocean acidification and carbon footprint

Puget Sound

When it comes to conservation at the Seattle Aquarium and changing ocean conditions, it’s important to practice what we preach. Sustainable practices and sustainable ecosystems go hand in hand. We are increasing operational efficiencies to reach our goal of cutting our carbon footprint by 25 percent by 2020.

In 2010 the Seattle Aquarium Board of Directors passed a “Climate Change and Ocean Acidification Commitment.” We convene scientific expertise and educational outreach efforts addressing ocean acidification. Our current collaborations include:

  • Evergreen Carbon Capture

    The Aquarium is a founding partner of the Forterra Evergreen Carbon Capture program in Washington to reduce our state’s carbon footprint and mitigate CO2 rise by funding the planting of thousands of trees a year in the region. The program recruits businesses large and small to commit to calculating, reducing and mitigating their carbon output through conifer trees native to the Pacific Northwest that are planted and maintained in parks, right of ways, transportation corridors and other natural areas.

    In 2015, through its membership this innovative program, the Aquarium offset its carbon footprint via the planting of 66 trees in Seattle/King County. It is estimated that these trees will sequester 329 tons of carbon over the next 100 years. Over 1,690 trees were planted via the program in 2015; these trees will sequester over 7,000 tons of carbon and will also contribute to the health of our region’s waterways and overall marine environment.

  • Ocean acidification

    At the Seattle Aquarium, we are working with scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (NOAA PMEL) to measure ocean acidification in the waters of Puget Sound, Washington.

    What’s ocean acidification? It’s a progressive increase in the acidity of the ocean, caused primarily by the uptake of increased carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

    Many marine species that live in the Pacific Northwest are being affected by ocean acidification (OA) now. Studies of the native Olympia oyster showed that survival and growth decreased with exposure to OA in laboratory and field settings. The same appears to be true for other native species like pteropods (a type of swimming snail), red sea urchins, northern abalone and turban snails. Although these shell-building animals seem to be most sensitive during their larval phase, negative effects have been observed in adult animals as well.

    Here is a graph of the seasonal changes in CO2 that we are seeing from this research…we are still waiting for this graph from PMEL!

    Measuring ocean acidification (or pH) accurately is difficult. So the Seattle Aquarium and NOAA scientists are also partnering with the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health competition, in which researchers are developing measurement tools that are not only accurate, but also affordable, to overcome this challenge.

    We have the ability and also the responsibility to act now to reduce our use of fossil fuels and the impacts of ocean acidification. The key to getting our ocean back to functioning the way it should is to get away from using fossil fuels for energy. This means moving toward energy sources that don’t create rampant carbon dioxide.

    The only way to create this shift in our energy system is to work together as a community. That’s why the Seattle Aquarium decided to participate in a community solar project, sharing the energy generated by an array of solar panels on our roof with others in our community and raising awareness that solar energy systems already exist and are a viable way to power our lives.

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), University of Washington and Oregon State University
    Testing state-of-the art instruments to monitor ocean acidification worldwide.
    Partnering with Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health competition to develop the world’s most accurate and affordable pH sensors.

For more information on ocean acidification see the Seattle Times “Sea Change” series.

Ocean acidification 101, click on image below to view infograph.


Blog posts, ocean acidifcation and carbon footprint news: