Integrating Ocean Acidification Into Coastal Benthic Ecology
Speaker: Alex Lowe, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
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Ocean acidification from rising atmospheric CO2 poses serious threats to coastal ecosystem services. Seawater pH can impact physiological processes of many aquatic organisms, including valuable aquaculture species like Pacific oysters. Yet increasingly, researchers are finding that local ecological processes may be altering some of these global trends.
Ecologists have started to realize that that not only does pH affect organisms, but that organisms also affect pH. This discovery is changing the way we view coastal ecosystems. Understanding 1) how environmental factors or ecological processes drive variation in seawater pH; 2) whether this results in spatial variation of long-term ocean acidification; and 3) the effects of this pH variation on coastal organisms are critical research needs for climate change adaptation and management of important natural resources.
In this talk, Alex Lowe will discuss research that explores these questions at different scales in the Salish Sea, Washington, where scientists found that biological processes were the key driver of pH variation at daily, seasonal and decadal scales. In this system, seawater pH changed with phytoplankton and suspended detritus composition, seagrass cover and, to a lesser extent, temperature and salinity. Using experiments with native and aquaculture oysters as examples, Lowe will discuss the potential for integrating observations of carbonate chemistry into coastal ecological studies.