Can Eelgrass Reverse the Effects of Ocean Acidification?

Jun 21, 2018

Joe Tyburczy of California Sea Grant Extension and HSU graduate student Eric LeBlanc recently deployed instruments during very low tides to measure pH levels and other environmental conditions in and near eelgrass beds in Humboldt Bay.
Credit Brian Carter

Joe Tyburczy is a marine ecologist with the California Sea Grant Extension who is studying the effects of eelgrass on ocean acidification. Joe and his colleagues are examining eelgrass’s role in reversing the effects of ocean acidification, which disrupts the ability to form shells in juvenile oysters and other marine life. 


Eelgrass is an aquatic plant that plays a key role in the Humboldt Bay ecosystem. It appears to buffer pH levels, which are declining – meaning the water is becoming more acidic or corrosive - in many coastal areas due to rapidly increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and oceans. By monitoring pH, carbonate,y and other water chemistry in and near eelgrass beds, Tyburczy's team hopes to better understand the role that eelgrass can play in reducing the effects of acidification on the Humboldt Bay ecosystem and its thriving oyster industry.

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State-of-the-art ocean chemistry monitoring comes to Humboldt Bay: The third “Burke-o-Lator” in California was recently installed at the Hog Island Oyster Company’s new hatchery on Humboldt Bay. The new instrument will monitor how the seawater chemistry is being altered by ocean acidification: as the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere increases, some of that CO2 dissolves into the ocean, making the seawater more acidic.

Central & Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS): The Humboldt Bay Station will soon be streaming data from the new “Burke-o-Lator” at Hog Island Oyster Company. CeNCOOSis one of eleven regional coastal observation systems in a national framework of covering all coastal areas throughout the United States. Explore the CenCOOS Data Portalfor real-time sensor feeds, operational oceanographic and atmospheric models, satellite observations and GIS data sets that describe the biological, chemical and physical characteristics.