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Other Potential Climate Change Effects in the Oceans
CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS ON MARINE ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES
depth of stratification, salinity (fresher in the higher latitudes and more salty in the
subtropics), and the oxygen concentration of the ventilated thermocline (IPCC,
2007). Climate change, for instance, is predicted to modify coastal upwelling either
by intensifying (Bakun, 1990) or weakening it (Vecchi et al., 2006), depending on
the model used. These changes are predicted to affect, for example, survivorship and delivery of propagules to the shore as well as food supply in coastal
ecosystems. On rocky shores for instance, increasing upwelling intensity and duration in intermittent upwelling regions such as the Oregon coast during the summer
will reduce sessile invertebrate larval recruitment (by moving the larval pool further offshore) lowering abundances of sessile invertebrates and through higher nutrient fluxes increase macrophytes, thus making rocky intertidal habitats in Oregon
more similar to those in California (Menge et al., 2004). Alternatively, if upwelling
is reduced, the structure of the seaweed assemblages will change, with decreases in
Laminarians and likely some red algae, and enhanced abundances of sessile invertebrates (due to higher recruitment, see Connolly and Roughgarden, 1999).
Increasing sea levels will permanently submerge some intertidal areas while
others might be created changing the mosaic of communities along the shore. In
areas where tidal amplitudes are small, such as the Mediterranean Sea, sea-level
rise can change the structure of communities because the ratio of vertical versus
horizontal surfaces will probably change and communities on different rock
aspects are different (Vaselli et al., 2008). In regions where most of the rocky
shore is horizontal and at mean sea level, for example where vermetid platforms
are found (warm temperate seas such as the eastern Mediterranean, Bermuda,
Safriel, 1974), a rapid sea-level rise would cause an inundation of most of the
intertidal zone by seawater, effectively turning the platforms into subtidal reefs.
Based on measurements of sea-level rise for the eastern Mediterranean (~8.5 cm
between 1992 and 2008) and projections for the next 100 years of up to a meter
or more (Rosen, 2008), most of the Israeli rocky shore will be underwater and
that unique ecosystem will be mostly lost.
Increasing storm intensity, including tropical storms (hurricanes, cyclones),
will increase the frequency and severity of disturbance inflicted on coastal communities such as mangroves, coral reefs, and rocky shores. There is already evidence that a progressive decadal increase in deep-water wave heights and periods
have increased breaker heights and elevated storm wave run-up levels on beaches
in the US Pacific Northwest (Allan and Komar, 2006). This of course can have
substantial effects on disturbance regimes on the shore that surely will affect the
structure of coastal ecological communities (Dayton and Tegner, 1984; Underwood,
1998). Larger, stronger storms are also expected to increase beach erosion. The
resultant increased erosion of the shore can also affect coastal geomorphology,
increase sedimentation, and therefore affect the ecology of the shore. A study on
the Oregon shore that looked at effects of a cliff collapse (and with it highway
101) and reconstruction showed how rocky intertidal communities have been
altered due to change in small-scale geomorphology and possibly sediment accumulation on the shore (Rilov, unpublished data).
GIL RILOV AND HAIM TREVES
The rate at which physical changes caused by global climate change might
unfold could be slow, but they could also be fast and therefore their manifestation
in the structure of communities and in biodiversity could be strong and immediate.
For example, the onset of hypoxia on the shelf of Oregon coast in 2002 was
relatively sudden and unprecedented (Grantham et al., 2004; Chan et al., 2008).
Hypoxic conditions have since re-occurred each summer, and greatly intensified
such that conditions were anoxic in 2006 (Chan et al., 2008). This resulted in massive die-offs of benthic invertebrates (e.g., crabs, sea stars) and the dwindling of
reef fishes on subtidal reefs (Service, 2004). The delayed upwelling observed in
2005 on the Oregon coast (Barth et al., 2007) had not been observed in at least the
previous 20 years, and had immediate consequences for concentrations of phytoplankton and larvae of sessile invertebrates. These intense coastal events seem to
correspond with larger-scale oceanographic and atmospheric changes in the
North Pacific that are consistent with global climate-change scenarios (e.g., Hooff
and Peterson, 2006; Barth et al., 2007) and may linger and therefore have profound ecological effects on regional and potentially global scales.
5. Predictions and Projections
In the past few years, there has been great effort to develop conceptual and numerical models that aim to forecast the ecological and economical impacts of climate
change on marine ecosystems. There are a dozen such projections in the current
literature of which we will mention only a few examples. Paleontological studies
of marine ecosystems can also aid in predicting how certain changes in ocean conditions might affect species and ecological communities. For example, Yasuhara
et al. (2008) show how deep-sea benthic ecosystems communities collapsed
several times during the past 20,000 years in correspondence with rapid climatic
changes that lasted over centuries or less, demonstrating that climate change can
have profound effects in the deep ocean and should therefore be considered in the
current models. Scientists now attempt to model effects on local, regional, oceanic,
or even whole-planet scales, depending on the question and information at hand.
On oceanic scales, a multispecies, functional group, coupled oceanatmosphere model that examined mostly primary producers’ response to
regional biogeochemical conditions suggests significant changes by the end
of this century in ecosystem structure, caused mostly by shifts in the areal
extent of biomes (Boyd and Doney, 2002). Whitehead et al. (2008) examined
the response of the other end of the food chain, deep-sea cetaceans, by studying their current distribution patterns in relation with sea-surface temperature, and concluded that climate change will cause declines of cetacean
diversity across the tropics and increases at higher latitudes. In the coastal
environment, the large, brackish, semi-enclosed Baltic Sea is predicted to
freshen (owing to altered precipitation patterns) and warm up resulting in a
shift in biodiversity due to the contraction of more marine species out of the
CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS ON MARINE ECOLOGICAL COMMUNITIES
system and the expansion of more freshwater species (Mackenzie et al.,
2007). In several major US bays, Galbraith et al. (2002) predict that even
with conservative estimates of climate change, sea-level rise will cause losses
of intertidal areas that range between 20% and 70% of the current intertidal
habitat that support extensive populations of migrating and wintering shorebirds. Such losses could considerably reduce the ability of these bays to support their present shorebird numbers.
Recent extensive reviews also attempt to predict the consequences of global
climate change to marine ecosystems at different regions. Australia’s marine life
is projected to change considerably due to the multitude of present and future
effects of climate change with the most serious and worrisome effects inflicted on
the unique system of the Great Barrier Reef (Poloczanska et al., 2007). The small
but highly diverse Mediterranean Sea is projected to transform its biological
diversity due (among many other things) to climate change (Gambaiani et al.,
2009). On Antarctic coasts, Smale and Barnes (2008) predict that the intensity of
ice scouring will increase and later sedimentation and freshening events will
become important, all leading to increased disturbance and considerable changes
in benthic community structure and species distributions. And the list goes on.
Climate change is of course but one process by which humans are affecting marine biodiversity. To it, we can add invasions of alien species (that can
be accelerated by climate change) and of course over-harvesting, pollution,
and habitat destruction. Many of these threats may act in synergy and produce
changes in biodiversity that are more pervasive than those caused by single
disturbances (Sala and Knowlton, 2006). What then is the future of marine
biodiversity in light of all these threats? Extinctions that are already happening
will probably accelerate and the homogenization of communities due to climate effects and invasions will reduce the uniqueness of ecosystems on a global
scale. Even if the current trends of destruction reverse at some point in the
near future, recovery of individual species that were at the brink may take
longer than expected because of Allee effects, changes in trophic community
structure, difficult-to-reverse habitat changes, or a combination of several factors (Sala and Knowlton, 2006). Recovery of diversity at the community level
will probably take much longer. Although the future seems grim for global
biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine, we wish to conclude with a positive
note that suggests that perhaps not all is doomed. Ehrlich and Pringle (2008)
propose several strategies that, “if implemented soundly and scaled up dramatically, would preserve a substantial portion of global biodiversity.” Those
strategies include stabilization of human population, reduction of material
consumption, the deployment of endowment funds, and taking major steps
toward conservation using large, permanent, protected areas. This of course
will require tremendous vision, effort, and mostly will by our species; however, mankind faced great challenges in the past and prevailed, and so we can
only hope that it will rise again to face this climate change and biodiversity
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Zacherl, D., Gaines, S.D. and Lonhart, S.I. (2003) The limits to biogeographical distributions: insights
from the northward range extension of the marine snail, Kelletia kelletii (Forbes, 1852). J. Biogeogr.
Biodata of Ugarte, R.A., Craigie, J.S., and Critchley, A.T., authors of “Fucoid
Flora of the Rocky Intertidal of the Canadian Maritimes: Implications for the Future
with Rapid Climate Change”
Dr. Raul A. Ugarte graduated as Marine Biologist from the Universidad de
Concepción in Chile in 1982. He worked on the establishment of Gracilaria
farms in southern Chile until 1984 and later joined the laboratory of Dr. Bernabé
Santelices at the Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, where he worked on
applied phycology until 1988. Later that year, he traveled to Canada for a training
program on resource management with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans
(DFO), under the direction of Dr. John Pringle and Glyn Sharp.
In 1990, he enrolled in a graduate program at Dalhousie University in Halifax,
Canada, where he obtained his Ph.D. in 1994. In 1995, Raul joined Acadian
Seaplants Limited, the largest independent seaweed processing company in Canada,
where he remains as a research scientist until today. Dr. Ugarte is responsible for
the extensive annual stock assessment program to evaluate biomass of the resource
Ascophyllum nodosum along an extension of more than 2,500 km of shoreline
under the company’s responsibility in the Maritime Region of eastern Canada. His
responsibilities with this resource also include research on habitat impact of
commercial harvesting, population dynamics, and ecological research as well as the
biomass assessment of other economically important seaweed species (e.g., Chondrus,
Alaria, Laminaria, etc.). His work, spanning more than 20 years in the rocky intertidal of the Maritimes, has given him a unique insight into the distribution and
abundance of the seaweed flora of the region.
Dr. Ugarte currently lives in Rothesay, New Brunswick, Canada.
A. Israel et al. (eds.), Seaweeds and their Role in Globally Changing Environments,
Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology 15, 69–90
DOI 10.1007/978-90-481-8569-6_5, © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
RAUL A. UGARTE ET AL.
Dr. James S. Craigie currently is Researcher Emeritus, National Research Council
of Canada, and Science Advisor for Acadian Seaplants Limited. He obtained
his Ph.D. in 1959 from Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada. Additional
research and studies were continued at CNRA, Versailles, and at the University
College of Wales, Swansea. Dr. Craigie returned to Canada in 1960 to accept a
phycology position at the Atlantic Regional Laboratory (Institute for Marine Biosciences), National Research Council of Canada, Halifax, NS. He was a Visiting
Scholar 1967–1968 at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego.
Dr. Craigie is a chartered member and past president of the Canadian
Society of Plant Physiologists, and has served as Editor of the Journal of
Phycology and as Associate Editor of the Journal of the World Aquaculture
Society. His interests encompass algal aquaculture, production, primary and secondary metabolites including polysaccharides and polyphenols. He developed
and taught graduate level courses in marine plant biochemistry and physiology
(Biology and Oceanography) at Dalhousie University from 1964 to 2000. His
research contributions have been recognized through numerous publications and
awards including the Darbaker Award and Prize, National Research Council of
Canada Industrial Partnership Award, the Marinalg International Honorary
Certificate, Federal Partners in Technology Transfer Innovator of the Year
Award, the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Award, the Bionova Nova Scotia
Award of Excellence, and the Phycological Society of America Award of
Excellence. He continues to conduct research and mentor staff at Acadian
Seaplants Limited and the Institute for Marine Biosciences in Halifax.
FUCOID FLORA OF THE ROCKY INTERTIDAL OF THE CANADIAN MARITIMES
Alan T. Critchley is a reformed Academic. He graduated from Portsmouth Polytechnic,
UK, and had a university career in southern Africa teaching phycology, marine
ecology, and botany (KwaZulu Natal, Wits, and Namibia). He moved to the “dark
side” in 2001 and took up a position in a multinational industry with Degussa
Texturant Systems (now Cargill TS), where he was responsible for new raw materials
for the extraction of the commercial colloid carrageenan. Since 2005, he has worked
as vice president, Research for Acadian Seaplants Limited, working on value addition to seaweed extracts and on-land cultivation of seaweed for food and bioactive
compounds. Not able to turn his back on the academic world entirely, he is presently
adjunct professor at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.