Climate change

Climate-driven changes in upwelling, ocean mixing, oxygen minimum zones, and nutrient cycling are likely to affect the year-to-year variation in ocean ecosystem processes. These changes will potentially impact marine life and the fundamental underpinnings of fisheries from shallow to deep-sea habitats. MBARI’s technical achievements and knowledge are transforming climate change research with novel methods and technologies.

Studying the effects of climate change on phytoplankton

MBARI Research Technician Lisa Sudek works on a photo-bioreactor. Image: Todd Walsh © 2016 MBARI

Human activities are changing the ocean on a global scale, with seawater in some regions becoming warmer, more acidic, and less well mixed. One possible result of reduced ocean mixing is that nutrients, which act like fertilizer for marine algae, could become less available near the sea surface.

Diverse groups of microscopic marine algae provide oxygen for the Earth’s atmosphere and form the basis for ocean food webs. Learning how they respond to variations in ocean conditions is key to understanding how ocean ecosystems change over periods from months to decades.

The Marine Microbial Group at MBARI are growing steady-state cultures of algae under precisely controlled levels of light, temperature, and nutrients to simulate various ocean conditions. The researchers then use sophisticated genomic techniques to help visualize growth and stress in the ocean. These findings allow the researchers to go out into the field and probe the real-time experience of algae with much greater sensitivity than has ever been possible before.

Related

Climate Change Projects

View from below of kelp forest canopy near the ocean surface.
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Focusing on climate action

September 6, 2018 – MBARI and Monterey Bay Aquarium leaders will be participating in the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.
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Making the case for ocean conservation

June 8, 2018 – Bringing to light an urgent message of ocean conservation to the public, leaders of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium wrote a column that was published in the New York Times today.
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Canadian Arctic 2016 Expedition

A group of MBARI scientists and engineers, led by geologist Charlie Paull, returned to the Beaufort Sea on a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker to study the Arctic seafloor.

Making an impact

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Ocean health

One of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation’s long-term goals it to restore the health and productivity of the world ocean, on which all live depends. MBARI research results have contributed to raising public awareness about the health and future of the ocean.
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Exploration and discovery

Exploration inevitably leads to discovery. MBARI is uniquely positioned to explore the deep-sea realm and its connections with the ocean surface. Easy access to Monterey Bay’s deep submarine canyon provides a natural laboratory for scientific research and engineering innovation.
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Climate change

Climate-driven changes in upwelling, ocean mixing, oxygen minimum zones, and nutrient cycling are likely to affect the year-to-year variation in ocean ecosystem processes. These changes will potentially impact marine life and the fundamental underpinnings of fisheries from shallow to deep-sea habitats.