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News Article | November 15, 2016
Site: www.csmonitor.com

While increasing at some sites, kelp, a useful indicator of an ecosystem's health, is undergoing a worldwide decline. A school of sardines swims through a kelp forest at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off California's coast. Since the area was declared a marine sanctuary five years ago, scientists have observed more lobsters, fewer urchins, and healthier kelp forests. Kelp, with its incredible ability to overcome biological stressors and grow back quickly, is an important indicator of how healthy the ocean is. As such, two studies published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, attempted first to quantify the health of kelp forests around the globe, and then to determine what can cause this resilient species to enter a large-scale decline and how that impacts the ecosystem as a whole. “When kelps show dramatic changes, increases or decreases, that indicates that there has been a real change in the ecosystem,” Jarrett Byrnes, co-author of the first study and an assistant professor of biology at University of Massachusetts, Boston, tells The Christian Science Monitor. “Kelps are very resilient, they respond very quickly after environmental predation. Anything that can drive a long-term change in a kelp population has got to be pretty big.” Kira Krumhansl, a postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University in British Colombia who led the first study, looked at the whether kelp populations were more impacted by local stressors, such as poor water quality and overfishing, or global stressors, such as ocean temperature warming cause by human activity. By analyzing kelp abundance at more than 1,000 sites across the globe, Dr. Krumhansl and her team determined that 38 percent of the world’s kelp forests have declined over the past 50 years, while 25 percent have increased. The lack of a global trend in the health of kelp forests suggests that it is the regional differences that drive the success of failure of a kelp population more than the global factors. “Climate change is impacting kelp forests, but what really drives variation across regions is what is occurring at a local scale,” Krumhansl tells the Monitor. “Kelps’ ability to persist through sources of stress is attributed to their capacity to grow quickly and recover quickly, but this also indicates that where we do see decline in kelp we are really tipping the level of stress over a critical threshold beyond which these species can recover.” Picking up on that line of reasoning, the second study looked into a kelp population in Australia that may have tipped over that threshold because of an invasion of tropical herbivorous fish into the New South Wales Sea that have been eating the kelp. Using video footage from 12 kelp forest sites between 2002 and 2011, the research team from University of New South Wales in Australia (UNSW) observed that while only 10 percent of kelp showed bite marks from fish in 2002, six years later 70 percent of kelp had been chewed. The dramatic kelp deforestation coincided with an 0.6 degree Celsius temperature rise in the New South Wales Sea, which ushered in a 20 percent increase in various species of tropical fish in the ecosystem – in a phenomenon called tropicalization. “We call it a homogenization of community,” Adriana Vergés, a researcher in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UNSW, told The Guardian. “It’s a bit like globalization – everything starts to become the same everywhere.” By eating the kelp, these non-native tropical fish disrupt the ecosystem. Peter Steinberg, the director of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science who contributed to the UNSW study, told The Guardian the damage that the fish – and by association the temperature change – caused to this kelp forest ecosystem was concerning because it showed that tropicalization could be triggered by a smaller increase in ocean temperature than expected. While kelp have proven they can survive in warmer waters, although they thrive at cooler temperatures, those warmer waters bring with them other environmental changes that can prove to be too much for the kelp. Therefore the temperature range that will initiate a massive kelp decline increase, which is bad new for the species and processes that in turn depend on kelp. “Kelp forests are important ecosystems because they support diverse communities of organisms in coastal zones, including many fishery species, and they provide a mechanism of carbon storage in coastal zones, they shelter shorelines from incoming wave actions,” Krumhansl told the Monitor. “They prove a number of benefits to humans, they are really critical for our livelihood and survival.”


News Article | November 15, 2016
Site: www.csmonitor.com

While increasing at some sites, kelp, a useful indicator of an ecosystem's health, is undergoing a worldwide decline. A school of sardines swims through a kelp forest at the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off California's coast. Since the area was declared a marine sanctuary five years ago, scientists have observed more lobsters, fewer urchins, and healthier kelp forests. Kelp, with its incredible ability to overcome biological stressors and grow back quickly, is an important indicator of how healthy the ocean is. As such, two studies published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, attempted first to quantify the health of kelp forests around the globe, and then to determine what can cause this resilient species to enter a large-scale decline and how that impacts the ecosystem as a whole. “When kelps show dramatic changes, increases or decreases, that indicates that there has been a real change in the ecosystem,” Jarrett Byrnes, co-author of the first study and an assistant professor of biology at University of Massachusetts, Boston, tells The Christian Science Monitor. “Kelps are very resilient, they respond very quickly after environmental predation. Anything that can drive a long-term change in a kelp population has got to be pretty big.” Kira Krumhansl, a postdoctoral fellow at Simon Fraser University in British Colombia who led the first study, looked at the whether kelp populations were more impacted by local stressors, such as poor water quality and overfishing, or global stressors, such as ocean temperature warming cause by human activity. By analyzing kelp abundance at more than 1,000 sites across the globe, Dr. Krumhansl and her team determined that 38 percent of the world’s kelp forests have declined over the past 50 years, while 25 percent have increased. The lack of a global trend in the health of kelp forests suggests that it is the regional differences that drive the success of failure of a kelp population more than the global factors. “Climate change is impacting kelp forests, but what really drives variation across regions is what is occurring at a local scale,” Krumhansl tells the Monitor. “Kelps’ ability to persist through sources of stress is attributed to their capacity to grow quickly and recover quickly, but this also indicates that where we do see decline in kelp we are really tipping the level of stress over a critical threshold beyond which these species can recover.” Picking up on that line of reasoning, the second study looked into a kelp population in Australia that may have tipped over that threshold because of an invasion of tropical herbivorous fish into the New South Wales Sea that have been eating the kelp. Using video footage from 12 kelp forest sites between 2002 and 2011, the research team from University of New South Wales in Australia (UNSW) observed that while only 10 percent of kelp showed bite marks from fish in 2002, six years later 70 percent of kelp had been chewed. The dramatic kelp deforestation coincided with an 0.6 degree Celsius temperature rise in the New South Wales Sea, which ushered in a 20 percent increase in various species of tropical fish in the ecosystem – in a phenomenon called tropicalization. “We call it a homogenization of community,” Adriana Vergés, a researcher in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UNSW, told The Guardian. “It’s a bit like globalization – everything starts to become the same everywhere.” By eating the kelp, these non-native tropical fish disrupt the ecosystem. Peter Steinberg, the director of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science who contributed to the UNSW study, told The Guardian the damage that the fish – and by association the temperature change – caused to this kelp forest ecosystem was concerning because it showed that tropicalization could be triggered by a smaller increase in ocean temperature than expected. While kelp have proven they can survive in warmer waters, although they thrive at cooler temperatures, those warmer waters bring with them other environmental changes that can prove to be too much for the kelp. Therefore the temperature range that will initiate a massive kelp decline increase, which is bad new for the species and processes that in turn depend on kelp. “Kelp forests are important ecosystems because they support diverse communities of organisms in coastal zones, including many fishery species, and they provide a mechanism of carbon storage in coastal zones, they shelter shorelines from incoming wave actions,” Krumhansl told the Monitor. “They prove a number of benefits to humans, they are really critical for our livelihood and survival.”


Williams G.D.,Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission | Andrews K.S.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Katz S.L.,Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary | Moser M.L.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Fish Biology | Year: 2012

The detailed movements of 32 acoustically tagged broadnose sevengill shark Notorynchus cepedianus were documented in and around north-east Pacific Ocean estuarine embayments from 2005 to 2007. Arrangements of passive acoustic receivers allowed analysis of movement at several spatial scales, with sex and size examined as possible factors influencing the pattern and timing of these movements. Notorynchus cepedianus exhibited a distinctly seasonal pattern of estuary use over three consecutive years, entering Willapa Bay in the spring, residing therein for extended periods of time during the summer and dispersing into nearshore coastal habitats and over the continental shelf during the autumn. Notorynchus cepedianus within Willapa Bay showed spatio-temporal patterns of segregation by size and sex, with males and small females using peripheral southern estuary channels early in the season before joining large females, who remained concentrated in central estuary channels for the entire season. Individuals displayed a high degree of fidelity not only to Willapa Bay (63% were documented returning over three consecutive seasons), but also to specific areas within the estuary, showing consistent patterns of site use from year to year. Cross-estuary movement was common during the summer, with most fish also moving into an adjacent estuarine embayment for some extent of time. Most winter and autumn coastal detections of N. cepedianus were made over the continental shelf near Oregon and Washington, U.S.A., but there were also examples of individuals moving into nearshore coastal habitats further south into California, suggesting the feasibility of broad-scale coastal movements to known birthing and nursery grounds for the species. These findings contribute to a better understanding of N. cepedianus movement ecology, which can be used to improve the holistic management of this highly mobile apex predator in regional ecosystems. © 2012.


News Article | October 25, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

About 500 new streams of shimmering methane bubbles have been discovered off the Pacific Northwest coast. The discovery, which took place in June, will be a major topic for discussion at the 2016 National Ocean Exploration Forum, a congressionally mandated meeting about ocean exploration priorities that is taking place in New York and New Jersey on Oct. 20 and 21. The meeting, organized by Rockefeller University and Monmouth University, is half celebration of a year's worth of ocean discoveries and half planning committee for the years 2020 to 2025, said organizer Jesse Ausubel, the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller. [See Stunning Images of the Discovered Methane Seeps] Notable ocean explorations in the past year include a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) exploration of the Marianas Trench, which contains Earth's deepest spot; a dive to the USS Independence, a World War II-era aircraft carrier that was scuttled off the coast of San Francisco in 1951; and the discovery of mysterious species like a bizarre purple orb, which was collected near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary off the California coast. The discovery of copious methane seeps in the Cascadia margin near Oregon and Washington was "at the top" of the list of 2016 discoveries, Ausubel said. "It's a scale question," he said. "We've known for a few decades that these exist, but it's turning out that they could be really extensive, and if they're very extensive, that starts to change your ideas about ocean life, because there are animals, mussels and sea worms and so forth, that can live off the energy" released by the seeps. As captured by a remotely operated vehicle that was launched from the research vessel Nautilus and operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust, the seeps vent silvery cascades of bubbles, often making it seem that the camera was bathed in champagne. The discovery of approximately 500 new seeps doubles the number of known seeps that have been found off the U.S. West Coast. "It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep," Bob Ballard, head of the Ocean Exploration Trust, said in a statement. Methane is a hydrocarbon, and is a potent greenhouse gas. According to NOAA, it has 23 times the warming potential of an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. Twenty years ago, methane seeps were basically unknown, Ausubel said. Depending on how much is released from the vents off the West Coast — and how it ends up in the water versus the atmosphere — global climate models may need adjustment. To date, very little is known about the new seeps, including the methane's origin. Some oceanic methane comes from geological sources. Essentially, buried organic material is put under pressure, heats up and releases the gas through cracks in the ocean floor. A second source — which comes from microorganisms called methanogens — produces it as a byproduct. Methane seeps also host communities of methanophiles, which are organisms that live off the energy-rich gas. Researchers are also uncertain about how much gas the new Cascadia seeps releases. Some sites are more active during various parts of the tidal cycles, Bob Embley of the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab at NOAA told reporters today (Oct. 19). Figuring out the complexities of the system will require longer-term research.


McKenna M.F.,West Marine | McKenna M.F.,University of California at San Diego | Katz S.L.,Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary | Condit C.,University of California at San Diego | Walbridge S.,National Center for Ecological Analysis And Synthesis
Coastal Management | Year: 2012

Collisions between ships and whales are an increasing concern for endangered large whale species. After an unusually high number of blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) were fatally struck in 2007 off the coast of southern California, federal agencies implemented a voluntary conservation program to reduce the likelihood of ship-strikes in the region. This initiative involved seasonal advisory broadcasts requesting vessel operators to voluntarily slow to 10 knots or less when transiting a 75 nm stretch of designated shipping lanes. We monitored ship adherence with those speed advisories using Automatic Identification System data. Daily average speed of cargo and tanker ships and the average speed of individual ship transits before, during, and after the notices were statistically analyzed for changes related to the notices. Whereas a small number of individual ships (1%) traveled significantly slower during the requested periods, speeds were not at or below the recommended 10 knots, nor were daily average speeds reduced during the notices. Voluntary conservation measures are established in a variety of contexts, and may be preferable to regulatory action; in this case, a request to make voluntary changes appeared largely ineffective. Reducing collision risks for whales in this area will require consideration of the various factors that likely explain the lack of adherence when developing an alternative strategy. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


McKenna M.F.,University of California at San Diego | Katz S.L.,Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary | Wiggins S.M.,University of California at San Diego | Ross D.,Box 101 | Hildebrand J.A.,University of California at San Diego
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America | Year: 2012

Simultaneous long-term monitoring of underwater sound and ship traffic provided an opportunity to study how low-frequency noise correlated with ocean-based commercial shipping trends. Between 2007 and 2010 changes in regional shipping off southern California occurred as a consequence of economic and regulatory events. Underwater average noise levels measured before and during these events showed a net reduction of 12 dB. Statistical models revealed that a reduction of 1 ship transit per day resulted in 1 dB decrease in average noise. This synthesis of maritime traffic statistics with ocean noise monitoring provides an important step in understanding the magnitude and potential effects of chronic noise in marine habitats. © 2012 Acoustical Society of America.


News Article | November 20, 2015
Site: news.yahoo.com

Pollution-free, renewable energy for some 300,000 homes could arrive on the California coast in the next decade if a new wind farm plan can navigate the contentious climate that thus far has derailed all offshore power projects in the state since 1969. Offshore wind development firm Trident Winds wants to put 100 floating wind turbines—tethered to the seafloor with a system of cables—15 miles off the coast from Morro Bay. The array would dwarf the only other offshore wind project in the United States—a five-turbine venture off the coast of Rhode Island, currently under construction. In October, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that compels the state’s utilities to generate half of its electricity from renewables by 2030, and Trident Winds is hopeful the 600-foot-tall turbines could be part of the new energy mix, spinning off Morro Bay by 2025. The ambitious clean energy goals likely mean more offshore wind and wave energy proposals will be on the table for state agencies to consider. If past is prologue though, the road ahead won’t be a breeze. “One hundred turbines covering 40,000 acres is a massive footprint and I know of no other similar proposals offshore,” said Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network. “Investors see the California coast as a bonanza, but it’s really like no other, and that’s because of the strict laws we have to protect it. We need a statewide policy and guidance to ensure that projects like these move forward in a coherent manner.” In recent years, a handful of small offshore wave energy projects for the Northern California coast have failed to materialize for a variety of reasons—from funding shortfalls, to impact on habitat. Tom Luster, an energy specialist with the California Coastal Commission, says a proposal for a small offshore energy research facility in the California Central Coast is currently wending its way through the approval and funding process. He believes a surge of offshore energy proposals could soon find his desk. “The Coastal Act is built so that it’s pretty flexible,” said Luster. “As projects come up, we might not have specific policies to wind or wave energy, but the main questions are the same: how will projects affect marine life or public access to the shoreline.” RELATED: Wave Power Could Supply Half the U.S. With Cheap Electricity—Here’s Why It Doesn't Eric Markell, one of Trident Wind’s partners, says the proposed site is attractive because of reliable wind resources and existing onshore infrastructure—an existing decommissioned power plant, one of the most recognizable features of the Morro Bay landscape. “The cost of the project is to be determined,” Markell told KQED radio. “Economies of scale will drive down costs—both for the floating infrastructure and the turbines.” The proposed Morro Bay site would float in waters between the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. But The Sierra Club and local tribe leaders have been working on an initiative to create the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary—a 140-mile stretch of coastline that includes the proposed Trident site. Andrew Christie of the Sierra Club sees no reason why renewable offshore energy projects couldn’t coexist with protected waters. “NOAA’s approach is similar to ours—we will evaluate the formal project proposal once it’s submitted … and determine if the project’s potential impacts have been adequately analyzed and mitigated or avoided,” he said. “If the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary has been designated for the area at that time, we’ll also consult with NOAA to assure that harm to sanctuary resources will be avoided.” Globally, offshore wind power is still finding its sea legs. Take England, for example. After five years of public consultation and review, the 76-square-mile Navitus Bay wind farm that would have floated more than 100 turbines off the southern English coast was killed in September. Andy Cummins, Campaigns Director with Surfers Against Sewage, a UK-based nonprofit environmental watchdog agency, worked closely with the Navitus Bay developers to ensure they mitigate any impact on the local recreational resources. Cummins hoped it could have been a precedent-setting case study for offshore wind power. “Ideally, it would have gone in and we could have congratulated them for putting in a responsible renewables program,” said Cummins. “With wind farms more than any other renewables, it comes down to visual impact. This was bordering a wealthy community and a world heritage site. Honestly, as much noise as the engagement of recreational water users made, the thing that stopped it was the visual impact.”


Scheef L.P.,National Center for Ecological Analysis And Synthesis | Pendleton D.E.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Hampton S.E.,National Center for Ecological Analysis And Synthesis | Katz S.L.,Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary | And 3 more authors.
Limnology and Oceanography: Methods | Year: 2012

We examined how marine plankton interaction networks, as inferred by multivariate autoregressive (MAR) analysis of time-series, differ based on data collected at a fixed sampling location (L4 station in the Western English Channel) and four similar time-series prepared by averaging Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) datapoints in the region surrounding the fixed station. None of the plankton community structures suggested by the MAR models generated from the CPR datasets were well correlated with the MAR model for L4, but of the four CPR models, the one most closely resembling the L4 model was that for the CPR region nearest to L4. We infer that observation error and spatial variation in plankton community dynamics influenced the model performance for the CPR datasets. A modified MAR framework in which observation error and spatial variation are explicitly incorporated could allow the analysis to better handle the diverse time-series data collected in marine environments. © 2012, by the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, Inc.


Katz S.L.,Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary | Hampton S.E.,National Center for Ecological Analysis And Synthesis | Izmest'eva L.R.,Irkutsk State University | Moore M.V.,Wellesley College
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Large-scale climate change is superimposed on interacting patterns of climate variability that fluctuate on numerous temporal and spatial scales-elements of which, such as seasonal timing, may have important impacts on local and regional ecosystem forcing. Lake Baikal in Siberia is not only the world's largest and most biologically diverse lake, but it has exceptionally strong seasonal structure in ecosystem dynamics that may be dramatically affected by fluctuations in seasonal timing. We applied time-frequency analysis to a near-continuous, 58-year record of water temperature from Lake Baikal to examine how seasonality in the lake has fluctuated over the past half century and to infer underlying mechanisms. On decadal scales, the timing of seasonal onset strongly corresponds with deviation in the zonal wind intensity as described by length of day (LOD); on shorter scales, these temperature patterns shift in concert with the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Importantly, the connection between ENSO and Lake Baikal is gated by the cool and warm periods of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). Large-scale climatic phenomena affecting Siberia are apparent in Lake Baikal surface water temperature data, dynamics resulting from jet stream and storm track variability in central Asia and across the Northern Hemisphere.


News Article | July 29, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

A mysterious, glowing purple orb found deep beneath California waters has left researchers puzzled. What exactly is this strange blob? The blob appears like a bright and dazzling purple disco ball under the sea. The Smithsonian Museum even compared it to an unhatched Pokémon. But the purple blob is something else. In a recent expedition, experts on the vessel E/V Nautilus discovered the peculiar blob on the bottom of the ocean near the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. They recovered it with the help of a remotely operated vehicle. In a video capturing the precise moment they discovered the blob, the researchers could be heard expressing their surprise. "We have like a dark purple blob on the left," one of the scientists said. Thus began the attempt to find out what the blob is. One of their initial hypotheses is that the blob is an embryo of some sort or some kind of spider egg sac. "Maybe we should leave it," a researcher said. "[W]e don't want to mess with spider egg sacks." The team was able to suction up the orb, which has a diameter of about 5 centimeters (1.96 inches), after it encountered a meddling red crab. The purple blob was taken from an underwater canyon approximately 5,301 feet (1,616 meters) deep, according to Susan Poulton, a spokesperson from the research team. And although the scientists brought the tiny blob on board the E/V Nautilus to examine it, they still have no concrete idea of what it really is. After a closer inspection, however, researchers believe that the purple blob may be most likely a type of sea slug known as pleurobranch. This sea slug is a relative of the nudibranch, which is known by scientists for its brilliant hues. The nudibranch also resides in a wide range of environments, including warm and cold waters on variety of ocean floors. Most of these species are only about the size of a hand or a finger. However, although this hypothesis may be plausible, the purple color of the mysterious creature raises some questions. According to the Nautilus team, none of the known species of pleurobranchs in California are purple. This suggests that the purple blob may be a new species. And in order to determine whether the object is a pleurobranch, scientists will still have to find rhinophores or ear-like structures on the purple blob, as well as a gill under the mantle under the right side. These features are commonly present among pleurobranchs. Meanwhile, the team has sent samples of the purple blob to their colleagues at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology to consult about its identification. Watch the video of the purple blob's discovery below. © 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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