New Knowledge about Ocean Acidification

Photo: Calcifying organisms such as barnacles are susceptible to acidifying ocean waters.

Our human dimensions program worked with researchers at Oregon State University to study the general public’s knowledge and perceptions of risk surrounding ocean acidification (OA). What is OA? It’s a process where the sea water absorbs too much carbon dioxide and decreases the pH level of sea water. This in turn can cause stress in organisms that have shells (e.g. crabs, mussels). Many ecological studies have been done on OA but few are done examining the social science of this threat to marine environments.

This research highlighted the following:

  • Knowledge of OA was low among the general public, both on the coast and in the valley.
  • Most people perceive OA as a moderate risk to the marine environment, but a slight risk to themselves.

What does this mean? This is valuable information to inform communication efforts surrounding OA. The most effective forms of communication could be targeted with specific examples connecting risk to the impacts on humans, and such information would be useful to help prompt any behavior change.

There are two types of communication strategies – those that target people’s emotions and those that provide thought provoking messages. This research found both were needed to make communication efforts around OA more effective.

For more information: a link to the publication can be found here.