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Marine Biodiversity, Climate Change and Human Impacts
Contributors: C Smith, K. Weng, R. Waller, G. Steward, J. Drazen, G.Wang,
others in spirit
Why care about marine biodiversity and climate change?
- Ocean ecosystems contain remarkable, but still very poorly
known, levels of biodiversity & evolutionary novelty
Abyssal sea cucumber
- Ecosystem functions (& services) are modulated by biodiversity
-Humans are altering marine biodiversity at an accelerating
rate on a global scale
A major focus in Biological Oceanography is now:
1) Evaluating patterns and drivers of marine biodiversity:
- microbes to whales
- populations to ecosystems
- local to global scales
- intertidal to the abyss
2) Predicting the response of biodiversity and ecosystem
function to human threats, e.g.:
Whale-fall community
- climate warming
- ocean acidification
- resource exploitation (fishing, mining,
BOD has major efforts and opportunities in the study of marine
biodiversity and climate change –
- Here are a few highlights to provide a flavor of these activities
spanning tropics to polar regions
- Field program of Census of Marine Life
- PI’s Craig R. Smith and Pedro Martinez (Germ.)
- Funded by A. P. Sloan Foundation ($2.6
million for 2004 – 2010) and
$500,000 co-funding (Pew, etc.)
Evaluating patterns & causes of biodiversity in the global abyss
Why care about the abyssal seafloor (3000 – 6000 m)?
- >50% of Earth’ surface (the “Big Blue”)
- Biodiversity and ecosystem function poorly evaluated
- May be Earth’s largest reservoir of biodiversity
- Hawaii sits in middle of it
Key CeDAMar questions include:
1) Is the abyss a major reservoir of biodiversity?
2) How will abyssal biodiversity and ecosystem function respond to climate warming?
Coordinated Field Efforts Include:
Beyond 2010 - focus on still unstudied
regions – e.g., South Pacific
Latitudinal gradients
Antarctic Diversity and
Biogeography (ANDEEP)
Biodiveristy and species
ranges in Pacific (KAPLAN,
Diversity in a warm abyss
Diversity versus primary
production (CROZEX)
Decadal changes in abyssal
fauna: (PAP)
Another aspect of biodiversity studies - delineating the large marine
ecosystems of the open ocean
Using The Original Oceanographers
Kevin Weng
Thresher sharks
Lamnid sharks
Pelagic fishes ply the oceans with advanced sensor packages
(movement, image recognition, light, sound, real-time chemical recognition etc.).
They help us to discover and understand important bioregions of the ocean.
Pelagic Fishes can be Tracked with
Recently Developed Tools
SPOT fin-mounted transmitter - Argos position
Juvenile white shark
Adult white shark
Salmon shark
PAT Tag - Temperature, Pressure, Light
Salmon Shark
Seasonal Distribution:
White Sharks (n = 15)
Identify regions of productivity
White shark
Region of low productivity:
Weng et al. Accepted
biological function
Antarctic Marine Ecosystems are fundamentally structured by sea ice and
ice shelves
Ice Shelf
Sea Ice
Two NSF funded projects studying climate
warming on Antarctic Ecosystem function
Antarctic Peninsula region is
undergoing extremely rapid warming
(2.5oC since 1940) and ice loss
PENINSULA - NSF 2007-2010
C. Smith, R. Waller, UH
students and postoc
UH Collaborators –
Steward, Wang, Rappe
Ice free most of year (8 mo)
Co-PIs DeMaster & Thomas – NCSU
1) Evaluate seafloor
ecosystem change along
sea-ice gradient from
63o - 68o S
2) Predict response of
Antarctic ecosystemS to
loss of sea ice from
global warming
Cruises: Feb 08, July 08, Feb 09
Ice bound most of year (8 mo)
Abrupt Environmental Change in the Larsen Ice Shelf Ecsystem
C. Smith, UH postdoc , student Maria Vernet (SIO) , Cindy Van Dover (Duke) , Mike McCormick (Hamilton College)
NSF – IPY Project (2007 -2011)
Multi-disciplinary field program
Larsen B
collapse –
Area the size
of Rhode
in 5 wk in 2002
- Evaluate ecosystem response (sea surface to
seafloor) of ice-shelf loss
- Predict the consequences of ice-shelf collapse in other
Major cruises: 2010 (62 d), 2011
Deep-sea corals: ecology, genetics, larval
biology, and anthropogenic impacts
Rhian Waller & collaborators
• Who is where and why? - Not known in most areas
–Population Connectivity
• modern techniques to link present populations
• Reproductive ecology and larval dispersal
• ancient DNA techniques to link past populations to present
–Responses to climate change – acidification and warming
• Using ancient and modern DNA techniques to investigate seamount population flux in the past
30,000 years - making models for climate future
• Acidification/temp. experiments on deep-water corals/larvae skeletogenesis
–Anthropogenic Impacts
• Fisheries Impacts
• Oil Rig Impacts
• Precious Coral Harvest
• Using Reproductive/Genetic techniques to examine both
Major opportunity in biodiversity
and climate change research –
Climate change impacts on coral reef
ecosystems -
- field studies
- modeling
- interdisciplinary integration
Midway Island
Pearl &
Hermes Atoll
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National
Monument – largest most pristine reefs in
Questions ?
Abyssal benthos = indicator of strength of “Biological Pump”
Statistical Funnel of export flux
200-500 km diameter (>30,000 km2)
Benthic Community
Structure and Function
National Oceanography Center
Structure & function of abyssal communities strongly shaped by the Biological Pump
indicators of the export of carbon from large areas of surface ocean, through water
column, to seafloor
One broad finding –
abyssal ecosystem
structure/function tightly
coupled to export
Increased SST and reduced upwelling
resulting from global warming
Large reductions in export flux and dramatic
changes in abyssal ecosystems
Smith et al in review in Trends in Ecology and Evolution
Figure 4.19. Rates of surface elevation change (dS/dt) derived from ERS radar-altimeter
measurements between 1992 and 2003 over the Antarctic Ice Sheet (Davis et al., 2005). Locations of
ice shelves estimated to be thickening or thinning by more than 30 cm yr–1 (Zwally et al., 2006) are
shown by red triangles (thickening) and purple triangles (thinning).