Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
Gray's Reef

Coral bleaching in Grays Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Illustration showing ocean acidification by Amanda Camp under the direction of Dr. Scott Noakes and Eugene Wright, The University of Georgia.

Why is it a concern?

Over the next century, climate change is projected to profoundly impact coastal and marine ecosystems. Climate change is predicted to affect physical oceanographic and biogeochemical processes within the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS) and is being regarded as a cross cutting theme for the sanctuary’s monitoring and research programs. Climate change is having significant effects on sea temperature, pH, sea level, and currents potentially increasing storm intensity, flooding and droughts.  Sea level rise can cause coastal erosion, wetland loss, alteration of species assemblages and distributions, impacts on infrastructure flooding and island re-sizing, and can have groundwater implications – all of which can potentially affect the resources of GRNMS.

It is anticipated that continued CO2 research at Gray's Reef will help forecast how the benthic community will adapt as the Atlantic Ocean changes due to anthropogenic pressures. Researchers are currently investigating several aspects of climate change effects on biological, chemical, and physical processes at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. To shed light on past climate change, scientists are studying ancient scallop beds to develop hindcasts for Earth’s climate. Collaborative work using NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory’s sensor on the Gray’s Reef data buoy is looking into differences in pCO2 levels between surface and bottom waters, as well as long term trends of pCO2 in the water.

Overview of Research

Project Name PI and contacts Links

Ancient scallop beds and past climate change at Gray’s Reef

Scott Noakes Ph.D.

Measuring pCO2 at the surface and bottom of the water column at Gray’s Reef

Scott Noakes Ph.D.

Science Needs and Questions

  • What habitats are most at risk from changing climate?
  • How are the abundance, distribution and diversity of living resources throughout sanctuary habitats affected by global climate change, and at what temporal and spatial scales?
  • Is a change in ecological community structure anticipated due to warmer water or invasive species?
  • How will ocean acidification impact the Sanctuary and what affect will it have on various species?
  • Can monitoring of acoustics be utilized to determine the impact of climate change on the Sanctuary?

Education and Outreach Material

An Activity Book on Climate Change - “Discover your changing world with NOAA”


Ocean Management Task Force (OMTF). 2004. Oceanography, Weather Patterns and Climate Change. In: The Massachusetts Ocean Management Task Force Technical Report. Vol. 2

Ocean Acidification and CO2 Monitoring

National Data Buoy Center buoy at Gray's Reef, Georgia (31.40°N, 80.87°W)