California is exploring local and regional management strategies to address ocean acidification (OA). In early 2016, the West Coast OA and Hypoxia Science Panel recommended that states advance approaches that remove CO2 from seawater, including making use of photosynthesizing plants in coastal environments. In addition, recent legislation in California (Senate Bill No. 1363, Monning, 2016) calls for scientific approaches to protect and restore eelgrass beds as a critical strategy in enhancing California’s ability to withstand OA.
Coastal and estuarine plants, or submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV), have the potential to uptake carbon and modify pH within their canopy and surrounding waters. These habitats may potentially provide natural OA refugia to surrounding species, as well as many additional ecosystem services (carbon sequestration, essential fish habitat, shoreline buffering, water quality, biodiversity, etc.). On the West Coast, two dominant SAV habitats, seagrasses and kelps, show promise in their capacity to ameliorate OA on local scales, and are under active investigation in coastal regions of California, Oregon, and Washington.
As California considers nature-based adaptation strategies, the State is challenged with identifying when, where, and conditions under which SAV restoration and protection can most successfully be applied to ameliorate OA.