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Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and You

Climate Change Science and Data

  • The climate is changing faster than expected. Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are the culprits. The burning of fossil fuels for homes, industry, and transportation releases almost 10,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. 1
  • Carbon dioxide is changing not only our climate, but also the chemistry of the ocean. About 30% of the carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. 2 In marine water, carbon dioxide decreases pH and increases acidity through a process known as ocean acidification.
  • Excess nitrogen from sewage treatment plants, polluted stormwater, and fertilizers, is also adding carbon dioxide into nearshore waters through a process known as coastal acidification. 3
  • Nitrogen can fertilize massive algal growth in our waters. When the algal blooms die, decomposition depletes the area of life-giving oxygen and releases carbon dioxide, acidifying the water.

The impacts of climate change are evident right here in Casco Bay

Warmer Waters

Friends of Casco Bay has been tracking water temperatures for over 25 years. On average, our data show a 2.5° F increase in water temperatures since 1993.

Sea Level Rise

As water warms, it expands, and the sea encroaches on our coastline. Coastal observers and property owners are reporting an increase in erosion.

Increasing Precipitation

Maine has seen a six-inch average increase in annual precipitation since 1895, further threatening coastal properties. 4

Threats to the Ocean Food Web

More carbon dioxide in our waters means there is less shell-building material (calcium carbonate) for clams, mussels and oysters, as well as for tiny critters at the base of the ocean food chain. The saturation state of calcium carbonate is a key measurement of shell-building material for many organisms. Shell formation becomes more difficult when the amount of available calcium carbonate falls below a 1.5 saturation state. 5 Our recent data indicate that for nearly half the year, levels of calcium carbonate in Casco Bay are not sufficient for shell-building.

What do these changes mean for Casco Bay?

  • Research Associate Mike Doan with our Continuous Monitoring Station. The Station houses a number of instruments that collect data on carbon dioxide, temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll, and pH, hourly, 365 days a year. This large quantity of data is necessary to accurately track changes in the Bay from climate change, including ocean and coastal acidification.

    As marine waters become more acidic, we can anticipate more pitting or dissolution of the shells of many commercially viable species in Casco Bay.

  • Rising water temperatures are linked with shell disease, directly impacting our lobster fishery and tourism industries.
  • Climate change is bad news for clams because green crabs — which eat juvenile shellfish — thrive in warming waters. 6
  • The distribution and populations of marine species in the Gulf of Maine are shifting. Scientists and lobstermen are documenting the shift in distribution of Maine’s iconic lobsters north and east.
  • Copepods are tiny crustaceans that are the main food source for juvenile lobsters. In laboratory experiments, copepods raised in conditions that simulate the climate changes occurring in the Gulf of Maine were less fatty. With a less healthful diet, young lobsters must divert energy from growth and resisting disease to finding enough food to survive. 7

What is Friends of Casco Bay doing?

  • We helped form the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Partnership (MOCA) to coordinate climate change research and policy change work. MOCA is a diverse coalition of researchers, policy experts, lawmakers, aquaculturalists, and seafood harvesters. We are working to create an action plan for Maine to protect the health of our coastal waters.
  • LD 1284 has been selected by the Environmental Priorities Coalition, a group of 34 environmental organizations, as one of its five priority bills to address climate change in Maine.
  • Our Water Reporter volunteers are recording observations of how the Bay is changing. These observations strengthen our advocacy efforts as these reports are shared with regulators, legislators, and other decision makers, alerting them to conditions in the Bay.

What can you do?

  • Tell your legislators to support LD 1284 to create a science and policy advisory council to address the impacts of climate change on Maine’s marine species.
  • Join Water Reporter. Your observations combined with those of other volunteers around the Bay will provide a better understanding of changing conditions.  

References

  1. T.A. Boden, R.J. Andres, G. Marland, Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions, Research Institute for Environment, Energy, and Economics, Appalachian State University, 2017. https://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/trends/emis/overview_2014.html
  2. N. Gruber, D. Clement, R. Feely, et al., The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2 from 1994 to 2007, Science, 2019. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6432/1193
  3. J. Weiss, Marine Pollution: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  4. I. Fernandez, C. Schmitt, E. Stancioff, et al., Maine’s Climate Future: 2015 Update, The University of Maine, 2015. https://mco.umaine.edu/pubs/pdf/mcf-2015.pdf
  5. J. Ekstrom, L. Suatoni, S. Cooley, et al., Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification, Nature, 2015. http://pacshell.org/pdf/Ekstrom_etal2015.pdf
  6. E. Tan, B, Beal, Interactions between the invasive European green crab, Carcinus maenas, and juveniles of the soft-shell clam, Mya arenaria, in eastern Maine, USA, Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 2015. https://downeastinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/tan-beal-2015.pdf
  7. Copepods cope with acidification, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, 2018. https://www.bigelow.org/news/articles/2018-04-10.html

King Tides help us see what sea level rise might look like

Did you see the Armed with smartphones, volunteers track Casco Bay king tides as harbingers of sea-level rise article in the Portland Press Herald that covered this effort?
You can learn more about our Water Reporter effort and join here.

A King Tide is an astronomically high tide. A King Tide is a natural, predictable occurrence that happens a few times a year. This provides the opportunity to envision what our coastal areas may experience as sea levels continue to rise. These extra-high tides can help us spot areas that could be most vulnerable to sea level rise. King Tides are also known as perigean spring tides.

Casco Bay will experience a King Tide on Wednesday, February 20th, at 11:18 AM., which is estimated to reach 11.6 feet.  A normal high tide in the Bay ranges from 8 to 10 feet.

We are mobilizing our volunteer Water Reporters to help us document the February King Tide to help our us visualize what sea level rise may mean for our region. Between 10:48 and 11:48 on February 20,  our volunteers will don their rainboots and pull out their smartphones to capture this extreme tide using the Water Reporter app.

Water Reporter is an easy-to-use “Instagram-like” tool that enables our volunteers to document, catalogue, organize, and share observations of the Bay. This information is aiding our collaborations with other scientists, expand our community engagement by sharing observations on social media, and helping with our advocacy, to illustrate changes happening around the Bay to regulators, legislators, and other policy makers.

Are you interested in helping us document this upcoming King Tide? If so, sign up to be a Water Reporter using these instructions.

Casco Baykeeper Boat trip

Can a boat change perspectives?

Casco Baykeeper Boat trip
Taking our partners out on the Bay provides them with a different perspective on problems that affect the health of Casco Bay. Photo courtesy: Beth and Steve Westra

We are fortunate to have several platforms and partners to help our work to improve and protect the environmental health of Casco Bay. We’ll be highlighting each one in the coming weeks. One of those platforms is our Baykeeper Boat.

Our Baykeeper boat is where science, policy, and public engagement converge. As a marine organization, we are on or by the Bay year-round, and we take others there, too, to see the threats to the health of the Bay firsthand.

Our Research Vessel Joseph E. Payne provides a safe, reliable platform to conduct scientific studies, bring stakeholders together to work for clean water, and reach out to those who care about the health of the Bay. This 28-foot Baykeeper boat provides a water-level view of issues such as stormwater runoff and combined sewer pipes that disgorge polluted water into the Bay, suspicious algal blooms never detected here before, coastal flooding from sea level rise and historic storms, and a working waterfront clogged with toxic sediments that displace boat berths.

We convene floating meetings of policy makers from different departments and agencies to foster new working relationships and new approaches to issues we all care about. We provide an alternative perspective, all too rare, to examine issues that threaten the health of the Bay, from being on the Bay itself. We bring government officials and regulators, including staff from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and Casco Bay municipalities. Casco Baykeeper Ivy Frignoca says, “Many of our concerns are best understood from the water.”

We guide reporters, film crews, and donors around the Bay to show them the resource we all are responsible for protecting.

The Joseph E. Payne is foremost a research vessel, from which we monitor the health of our waters, study how acidification may be impacting our marine resources, assess new technologies for measuring nitrogen and sampling for microplastics, and follow up on reports of pollution, nuisance algal blooms, and other threats to the health of the Bay.

See what is going on beneath the surface. Check out our data!

Photograph by Kevin Morris • Aerial support provided by LightHawk

On July 20, 2016, our Continuous Monitoring Station began recording data hourly, 365 days a year. We are excited to share the first two and half years of data, collected at our water quality monitoring site in Yarmouth, near the coastal midpoint of Casco Bay. We will update these graphs monthly, so come back often and see for yourself how Casco Bay is changing.

See the data

How we work with you to keep Casco Bay blue

Casco Bay belongs to all of us. In 2019, we at Friends of Casco Bay are continuing our commitment to building a sense of shared ownership throughout our community, to help protect the health of this incredible resource. We see water as fundamental habitat and work to ensure that public policies keep the importance of the health of the Bay in mind.

Our community engagement opportunities provide a wide array of activities for citizens to assist us in our work and to advocate for the health of Casco Bay. For us, advocacy is about relationship building. We work to find common ground.

We pursue policies, laws, and limits based on sound science. Our advocacy efforts take place in many forums—from town halls to the halls of the State House to Washington, D.C. Sometimes, we protect the health of the Bay using education, convincing one homeowner or business at a time to change their practices. Other times, especially on regional or more complex problems, we advocate for the enforcement of existing laws and for the creation of new laws or ordinances. We look forward to working with you this year.

Maine Day of Service – January 5, 2019

Sea level is rising and we need your help to capture the changes.

Community members have observed the rise in sea level over the years. Coastal communities are experiencing greater storm surges and King Tides (astronomically high tides that occur a few times year). Maine geologists are planning for a three-foot sea level rise along the Maine coast over the next 100 years. The predicted impacts include beach erosion; landslides; loss of wildlife habitats; and drowned infrastructure, causing more sewage overflows, flooded streets, broken pipes, and costly repairs.

Now we need your help to capture these changes.

On January 5th, Maine Day of Service, you can take the first step towards helping Friends of Casco Bay record these changes over time by becoming a Water Reporter.

Your job will be to take photos during a “normal” high tide using your smartphone and the Water Reporter App. It is easy to take part and everything you need to do can be done between 9:30 AM and 11:30 AM. You will download the Water Reporter App, create an account, find a good location, and take a photo of the coast of Casco Bay between 10 AM and 11 AM. Some steps can be completed in advance, and they are noted below.

We will use the images to shine a light on the impacts of sea level rise and support local, state, and national policies to affect positive change.

  1. Join Water Reporter following these instructions: https://www.cascobay.org/water-reporter/.
    We’d love to help you get set up. Call Sarah Lyman at (207) 370-7553. She is happy to help!  Sarah can help you install the app and get set up quickly over the phone. This can be done before January 5th.
  2. After getting set up with Water Reporter, follow these steps to take a sea level rise photo:
    1. Find a good location: beaches, coastal parks, and public access sites along Casco Bay are perfect locations, for example, Back Cove or East End Beach in Portland, Fort William Park in Cape Elizabeth, Willard Beach, Bug Light, and Spring Point Light Parks in South Portland, Mackworth Island in Falmouth, Wolf Neck State Park in Freeport, Graveyard Point Town Landing in Harpswell, any of the islands in Casco Bay, and many many more places.  Make sure you can stay safe!
    2. Plan your arrival time so that you have enough time to get to your location and take a photo, or series of photos between 10 AM and 11 AM on January 5, 2019. High tide is at 10:30 AM in Portland.
    3. Stand at least two strides up from the water line. Take the photo looking down the shoreline. Include some sort of structure or landmark in your picture, such as a pier, jetty, breakwater, building, or dock, for perspective. This will help you and others take images from the same location and angle in the future.
    4. In the Water Reporter App, click on the center icon with the “+” symbol at the bottom of the screen which will bring you to the “Create Post” page.
    5. Click on the camera icon and choose “camera” or “take a photo”. Ideally, you’ll want your picture to catch the wave as it reaches the highest water line. This definitely requires some patience and luck that no one walks through your picture just as the wave hits the highest point! But, even pictures that show the water line and some water from the waves are still very useful.
    6. Stay in the same location as you complete the rest of the steps: confirm your location by clicking on the location pin, allow Water Reporter to access your location while using the app, and make sure the red dot is in the correct spot on the map (where the photo was taken) and click “Set.”
    7. Share your post with Friends of Casco Bay.
      1. iPhone: Click on the icon with the two figures and then also click on the Friends of Casco Bay logo. You will know you clicked the logo because a small green circle will appear next to it.
      2. Android: Under “Share with your groups” click on the toggle next to Friends of Casco Bay, when the toggle is green it means it will be shared.
      3. Troubleshooting: Sometime the tagging a group feature does not work. If this happens to you, skip this step and continue to post your photo. Once it is posted, you can edit your post and share it with the Friends of Casco Bay group.
    8. Describe more about your photo in the comment field, including our suggested hashtag (you may use multiple hashtags): #sealevelrise.
    9. Click “Save” (iPhone) or the send button (Android) to post your photo.

      Note: All times recorded on the map are in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

It would be really helpful to obtain photos of high tide impacts or effects of storm surges throughout the year! We invite you to revisit this location during other high tides, including King Tides and during heavy rain events, which can be found here: https://me.usharbors.com/monthly-tides/Maine-Southern%20Coast/Portland%20Harbor/2019-01. King Tides, though naturally occurring, offer a glimpse of what flooding and future sea level rise will look like in our communities.

Thank you Color by Numbers Volunteers!

Thank you to the volunteers who helped fill this map with color!

Image from EyeOnWater website

Sixty-five volunteers have taken 860 color measurements of Casco Bay since we launched our Color by Numbers pilot project last spring. Our volunteers put a modern twist on a century-old oceanographic tool, using their smartphones and tablets to photograph and match the color of the water to the Forel-Ule color scale. This index of 21 colors—from blue to brown—measures color as a revealing indicator of the health of oceans and lakes.

Thank you to everyone involved in the Citclops project for creating, and providing the EyeOnWater app and website we utilized in this project.You can learn more about those involved with the Citclops project here.

Our next steps are to meet with our partners at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay Harbor and evaluate the measurements collected this year. Then we will be assessing this pilot project over the winter.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this important pilot project!

Water Temperatures Are Changing in Casco Bay

Our CMS allows us to identify nuances in how the Bay is changing year-to-year in far more detail than we ever could before.

Friends of Casco Bay’s newest workhorse—our Continuous Monitoring Station (CMS)—has been amassing hourly data on the health of the Bay for over two years now.

Research Associate Mike Doan is excited to be able to look at the daily, weekly, and seasonal changes in the Bay in far more detail than ever before. Mike was able to make comparisons between the first two years of data, comparisons we will continue tracking year to year. For example, the graph above shows nuances we could not have documented before:

A. The period of late summer-early fall of 2016 was warmer than the same time period in 2017.

B. The winter of 2017-18 turned colder earlier, with water temperatures dropping below 0°C before the end of December. In the previous winter, water temperatures did not drop below 0°C until late January.

C. Overall, spring and summer of 2018 were warmer than the same periods the year before.

On July 20, 2018, we marked the second anniversary of when our Continuous Monitoring Station began recording data off Yarmouth near the coastal midpoint of Casco Bay. The data are providing insights into how climate change and ocean acidification may be affecting the health of our waters.

The Station consists of a modified lobster trap that houses a data sonde and a carbon dioxide sensor, instruments that collect data on many different aspects of water conditions.

Mike is the architect of our Cage of Science. “It’s been a lot of work to get to this point,” admits Mike, “and it is exciting to see the quality and quantity of data we are collecting.” Colleagues have taken notice of how he has been able to outfit an electronic station with accurate, high-tech monitoring equipment at reasonable cost. Several scientists already are using the continuous data.

We look forward to building the long-term data set that will provide a more complete picture of a changing Casco Bay, information that can help our communities assess, mitigate, and adapt to those changes.

Why is water temperature important?
Temperature influences how much oxygen and carbon dioxide the water can hold, the rate of plant growth and decay, and the movement of currents. Temperatures also impact the geographic distribution of marine life. Menhaden (pogies), typically found in the mid-Atlantic, have been showing up in large numbers in Casco Bay. Lobstermen say that lobsters are remaining farther offshore, with fewer showing up in warmer water areas around inshore eelgrass beds. We are seeing species of phytoplankton that were never before documented in Casco Bay.

Thanks to support from Casco Bay Estuary Partnership and generous donors, our Continuous Monitoring Station collects data once an hour, every hour, year round.