Marine Ecosystems Are Preparing for Climate Change

Feb 13, 2017

By Kavya Balaraman

Coral reefs, kelp forests and other marine ecosystems may be tougher than we give them credit for, a new study suggests.

While countless scientific reports have documented the ravages of climate change on oceanic life, a survey of the researchers who wrote them provides a silver lining: An overwhelming majority noticed examples of sea life withstanding climate change.

“There are instances where sensitive ecosystems have shown remarkable resilience after climatic events. You can think of them as ‘bright spots’: They demonstrate that there are conditions under which ecosystems can persist even with major climate disturbances,” said Jennifer O’Leary, a marine conservation biologist with California Polytechnic State University and leader of the study.

The results of the survey were compiled in a report published in the journal BioScience. In all, 97 researchers were polled; 80 percent of those who had witnessed climatic disturbances also reported noting instances of resilience. A similar survey that looked at expert-recommended papers on ecosystems found examples of resilience in 85 percent of them.

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6 comments on “Marine Ecosystems Are Preparing for Climate Change

  • @OP – “There are instances where sensitive ecosystems have shown remarkable resilience after climatic events. You can think of them as ‘bright spots’: They demonstrate that there are conditions under which ecosystems can persist even with major climate disturbances,” said Jennifer O’Leary,

    Ah! “Bright spots” ripe for cherry picking by deniers!

    The results of the survey were compiled in a report published in the journal BioScience. In all, 97 researchers were polled; 80 percent of those who had witnessed climatic disturbances also reported noting instances of resilience.

    Which would indicate that in 20% of the studies, they had not!

    It is also worth noting that “resilience” in ecosystems can include features like tropical species migrating towards the poles, and desert species moving into new desertified farm land as deserts intensify and expand!

    Meanwhile the effects of ocean acidification are known to disrupt shell growth in shellfish, and sequestration of CO2 in limestone from their shells on the sea-floor!

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/04/ocean-acidification/kolbert-text

    The scientists who visit the island, by contrast, come to see what life will be like in the future.

    Owing to a quirk of geology, the sea around Castello Aragonese provides a window onto the oceans of 2050 and beyond.
    Bubbles of CO2 rise from volcanic vents on the seafloor and dissolve to form carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is relatively weak; people drink it all the time in carbonated beverages. But if enough of it forms, it makes seawater corrosive. “When you get to the extremely high CO2, almost nothing can tolerate that,” Jason Hall-Spencer, a marine biologist from Britain’s University of Plymouth, explains. Castello Aragonese offers a natural analogue for an unnatural process:
    The acidification that has taken place off its shore is occurring more gradually across the world’s oceans, as they absorb more and more of the carbon dioxide that’s coming from tailpipes and smokestacks.

    Hall-Spencer has been studying the sea around the island for the past eight years, carefully measuring the properties of the water and tracking the fish and corals and mollusks that live and, in some cases, dissolve there.

    On a chilly winter’s day I went swimming with him and with Maria Cristina Buia, a scientist at Italy’s Anton Dohrn Zoological Station, to see the effects of acidification up close. We anchored our boat about 50 yards from the southern shore of Castello Aragonese.
    Even before we got into the water, some impacts were evident.
    Clumps of barnacles formed a whitish band at the base of the island’s wave-battered cliffs.
    “Barnacles are really tough,” Hall-Spencer observed. In the areas where the water was most acidified, though, they were missing.

    We all dived in. Buia was carrying a knife. She pried some unlucky limpets from a rock. Searching for food, they had wandered into water that was too caustic for them. Their shells were so thin they were almost transparent. Bubbles of carbon dioxide streamed up from the seafloor like beads of quicksilver. We swam on. Beds of sea grass waved beneath us. The grass was a vivid green; the tiny organisms that usually coat the blades, dulling their color, were all missing.
    Sea urchins, commonplace away from the vents, were also absent; they can’t tolerate even moderately acidified water. Swarms of nearly transparent jellyfish floated by. “Watch out,” Hall-Spencer warned. “They sting.”

    Jellyfish, sea grass, and algae—not much else lives near the densest concentration of vents at Castello Aragonese.
    Even a few hundred yards away, many native species can’t survive. The water there is about as acidified as the oceans as a whole are forecast to be by 2100.




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  • @OP – Coral reefs, kelp forests and other marine ecosystems may be tougher than we give them credit for, a new study suggests.

    And the decimated kelp forests and bleached corals MAY not -as ocean temperatures rise!

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3810891/

    Kelps are cool-water species that are stressed by high temperatures (Steneck et al. 2002), so that seawater warming will affect the distribution, structure, productivity, and resilience of kelp forests (Dayton et al. 1992; Wernberg et al. 2010; Harley et al. 2012).

    Poleward range contractions have been predicted for several more northerly distributed kelp species (e.g., A. esculenta, L. digitata, L. hyperborea) in response to ocean warming in the Atlantic (Hiscock et al. 2004; Muller et al. 2009; Raybaud et al. 2013).

    It is evident that the relative abundance of several kelp species changes with latitude along NE Atlantic coastlines, which corresponds to a regional-scale temperature gradient, and that several habitat-forming kelps are at their range edge in the UK and Ireland (e.g., L. ochroleuca at its northernmost limit, A. esculenta at its southernmost limit, Fig. 3).

    Because of these distribution patterns and because the distributions of some intertidal species have shifted, several authors have predicted that relatively southerly distributed species will increase in abundance, while more northerly species will decrease in abundance and/or undergo range contractions in the UK and Ireland (Breeman 1990; Hiscock et al. 2004).

    There is some evidence to suggest that more southerly distributed kelp species (e.g., L. ochroleuca and S. polyschides) have increased in abundance and have undergone poleward range-edge expansions, while conversely, northern species (e.g., A. esculenta) have decreased in abundance in response to recent warming (Simkanin et al. 2005; Brodie et al. 2009; Birchenough and Bremmer 2010).

    However, the evidence base is largely based on anecdotal reports and unpublished survey data, and detailed historical examinations of distribution patterns are lacking.

    As changes in the identity and abundance of habitat-forming species can have wide-ranging consequences for community structure and ecosystem functioning (Jones et al. 1994), there is a pressing need to examine climate-driven distribution shifts and their wider implications.

    For example, if a cool-water habitat former is replaced by a warm water species that is functionally and structurally similar, it is plausible that the wider community or ecosystem will be relatively unimpacted (e.g., Terazono et al. 2012).

    Conversely, if a structurally or functionally dissimilar species becomes dominant or habitat formers are lost and not replaced, then widespread changes in biodiversity patterns and ecological processes are likely to ensue (Ling 2008; Thomsen et al. 2010).



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  • Meanwhile high-tech technology, is migrating out of the UK where scientists will in future become dependent on access to European data! (despite denials and assurances)

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39144990

    The next-generation supercomputer that will drive Europe’s medium-range weather forecasts looks set to be housed in Bologna, Italy, from 2020.

    It would succeed the current system based in Reading, UK.

    Member states of the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) made the indicative decision to relocate the facility on Wednesday.

    Detailed negotiations will now be held with Italian authorities. The intention is to confirm the choice in June.

    That is the date of the next full Council meeting of the ECMWF.

    The bid from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna Region to erect a new €50m (£43m) building on the site of an old tobacco factory was regarded as the leading contender, according to an evaluation panel.

    A proposal from Finland is back-up should the legal, financial and technical discussions over the next few months suddenly fall over.

    The ECMWF is an independent intergovernmental organisation supported by 22 full member states from Europe, with another 12 co-operating nations.

    ECMWF staff do not need to be in the same location as the supercomputing facilities and there is no plan to move them as well.

    The centre employs more than 300 people in Reading, many of them engaged in advanced meteorological research.

    They will, for example, be working very closely with the European Space Agency later this year when it launches the British-built Aeolus satellite. This spacecraft is due to gather the first truly global, three-dimensional view of winds on Earth, providing a significant boost to the skill of medium-range forecasting.

    A spokesperson for the centre said the movement of data storage and supercomputing out of the UK would have no impact on research activities in the UK. The ECMWF remained committed to Reading, she told the BBC.

    Half of its €100m (£85m) budget comes through direct contributions from member states. The other half comes from the European Union, which contracts the ECMWF to perform climate change and atmospheric monitoring under its Copernicus environmental programme.

    Brexit should have no impact on that arrangement, the spokesperson said, as the ECMWF already includes non-EU member states.

    . . . . Another area of complexity for brexiteer fantacists to negotiate a new buy-in deal from the back of the queue, – assuming they have the will and the capability!



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  • There are coral species in the Red Sea which are adapted to hotter waters, but introducing them elsewhere would radically alter ecosystems!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-40115716

    The world’s coral reefs can be saved by addressing climate change but they will not resemble those of the past, a new study has said.

    Future reefs will be defined by corals able to adapt to rapidly changing ecosystems, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.

    In April, surveys showed two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef had been severely bleached within two years.

    Governments can sustain reefs with immediate action, the researchers said.

    Lead author Prof Terry Hughes, from James Cook University, said he was optimistic that reefs would exist into the next century.

    “But the reefs of the future are going to look quite different,” he told the BBC.

    “Restoring things to what they used to be is no longer tenable. There will be a different mix of species.”

    However, annual bleaching in many locations by 2050 was likely if emissions continued on their current trajectory, the scientists said.

    Future sustainability would rely on significant shifts in how reefs were managed.

    This would involve international co-operation, such as with the Paris climate deal, but also policy co-ordination at a national level.

    The researchers said coral species had shown capacity to adapt rapidly on a huge scale, something they described as “an asset”.

    “When bleaching happens it changes the mix of species,” Prof Hughes said.

    “There are so-called winners and losers.”

    If normal conditions return, then corals could recover, but it may take decades.

    “If you tell somebody that something is doomed, they are likely to give up on it,” Prof Hughes said.

    “There is hope for reefs, but there is a narrow window of opportunity to deal with global warming.
    The sooner we enact the transition to zero net carbon emissions, the better.”




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