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
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.