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.

Increasingly acidic oceans can slow coral-reef growth

Tidal currents carry red dye across a reef flat during an ocean-acidification experiment on One Tree Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Photograph by Aaron Ninokawa

Yui Takeshita from MBARI and fellow researchers, led by Rebecca Albright of the California Academy of Sciences and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, conducted an ocean acidification experiment on a reef flat on a small island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The researchers increased the acidity of seawater in a lagoon by adding carbon dioxide, along with colored dye to track its flow. As the tide ebbed and began to drop, the acidified water from the lagoon flowed over the reef flat. This novel approach allowed the researchers to measure, for the first time, the biological response of a natural marine community without using artificial structures, such as chambers or flumes.

Their results were clear. The “net community calcification”—the amount of calcium carbonate taken up by reef organisms as they build their skeletons—was about one-third lower when the reef was exposed to a level of acidified seawater that could occur in the next century. This could be bad news for coral reefs, which need to grow continuously to keep up with a constant attack from waves, sea-level rise, and animals that burrow into and erode the reef structure. If reefs aren’t growing fast enough, they may gradually shrink and can even disappear beneath the waves.

Related

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Taking the laboratory into the ocean

MBARI’s technologies for carrying out experiments in situ have proven extremely valuable for addressing questions related to ocean acidification, expansion of oxygen minimum zones, and the emergence of dead zones.

Climate Change Projects

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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.
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Respiration studies

The oxygen content of the entire world ocean is falling. To investigate the consequences of this largescale change, MBARI scientists are exploring a characteristic attribute of the oceanic water column in Monterey Bay called the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ).
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Sargasso Sea research

Sargassum macroalgal rafts in the Sargasso Sea are vital feeding and spawning grounds for pelagic fishes, seabirds, sea turtles and whales. How might changes in ocean conditions and Sargassum habitat impact rafting animals?

Making an impact

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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.
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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.