header image

Archive for climate

Willamette Valley water future: Mostly bright, with some gaps

Posted by: | December 4, 2015 Comments Off on Willamette Valley water future: Mostly bright, with some gaps |

Over the next 85 years, temperatures in Oregon’s Willamette River basin are expected to rise significantly, mountain snowpack levels will shrink dramatically, and the population of the region and urban water use may double – but there should be enough water to meet human needs, a new report concludes.

Fish may not be so lucky. Although ample water may be available throughout most of the year, the Willamette Valley and its tributaries likely will become sufficiently warm as to threaten cold-water fish species, including salmon and steelhead, the scientists say.

These are among the key findings of the Willamette Water 2100 Project, a five-year, $4.3 million study funded by the National Science Foundation and led by Oregon State University, in partnership with researchers from the University of Oregon, Portland State University and University of California at Santa Barbara.

Oregon Sea Grant’s Sam Chan, who specializes in watershed health and invasive species, led the “broader impacts” outreach effort for the project.

Learn more

under: climate adaptation, environment, water quality & conservation, watersheds

Photographers sought for King Tides documentation project

Posted by: | October 19, 2015 Comments Off on Photographers sought for King Tides documentation project |

How might a changing climate and rising sea levels affect the Oregon coast? For the sixth straight year, Oregonians are invited to bring their cameras and smartphones to the coast and join in an international effort to document unusually high “King Tides” to help answer these questions.

This year the project focuses on three sets of extreme tides: Oct. 27-29, Nov. 24-27 and Dec. 23-25. Organized in Oregon by CoastWatch, the project invites anyone who can get to the coast during these tides to take shots at the highest reach of the tide on those days. Photos can focus on any feature, but the most useful show the tide near the built environment – roads, seawalls, bridges, buildings, etc.. Ideal photos would allow the photographer to return later, during an ordinary tide, to get comparison shots.

CoastWatch is making a special effort this year to document King Tides near Oregon’s four marine reserves (Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Otter Rock, Cape Perpetua and Redfish Rocks.) Participants will be able to share their photos on Flickr and should be prepared to include the date, description and direction of the photo. The Oregon King Tides Photo Initiative website will include an interactive map to help photographers determine the latitude and longitude of their shots.

For information about the project, and about the special effort to document King Tides in the marine reserve areas, contact Fawn Custer, CoastWatch volunteer coordinator (and an Oregon Sea Grant marine educator) at (541) 270-0027, fawn@oregonshores.org

 

under: citizen science, climate, sea level rise

Ocean acidification: Oyster industry thinks it’s doing harm

Posted by: | August 26, 2015 Comments Off on Ocean acidification: Oyster industry thinks it’s doing harm |

The public may not be convinced that ocean acidification is a problem, but a growing number of those who make their living off the ocean have become believers.

Becky Mabardy (foreground) and Iria Gimenez working in Waldbusser lab, 2013A new Oregon Sea Grant-funded survey, being published this week in the Journal of Shellfish Research, found that more than 80% of respondents from the US West Coast shellfish industry are convinced that acidification is having consequences – a figure more than four times higher than found among the broader public, researchers say. And about half the industry people surveyed reported having experienced some impact from acidification.

“The shellfish industry recognizes the consequences of ocean acidification for people today, people in this lifetime, and for future generations – to a far greater extent than the U.S. public,” said Rebecca Mabardy, a former OSU graduate student and lead author on the study.”The good news is that more than half of the respondents expressed optimism – at least, guarded optimism – for the industry’s ability to adapt to acidification.

George Waldbusser and Burke Hales inspect oysters at Whiskey Creek HatcheryThe mechanisms causing ocean acidification are complex, and few in the shellfish industry initially understood the science behind the issue, said OSU marine ecologist George Waldbusser,  who has worked with Northwest oyster growers on mitigating the effects of ocean acidification. However, he added, many have developed a rather sophisticated understanding of the basic concepts of carbon dioxide impacts on the ocean and understand the risks to their enterprise.

“Many have seen the negative effects of acidified water on the survival of their juvenile oysters — and those who have experienced a direct impact obviously have a higher degree of concern about the issue,” Waldbusser pointed out. “Others are anticipating the effects of acidification and want to know just what will happen, and how long the impacts may last.

Learn more

under: aquaculture, climate, ocean acidification, Oregon Sea Grant, research, shellfish

Corvallis Science Pub: An acidic ocean?

Posted by: | May 5, 2015 Comments Off on Corvallis Science Pub: An acidic ocean? |

It’s been called the “evil twin” of climate change. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and surface waters become more acidic, changes to marine ecosystems are likely to follow. Coral reefs, shell-forming organisms and the fish and marine mammals that depend on them are at risk.

At the May 11 Corvallis Science Pub, George Waldbusser will describe what scientists know about the biological effects of ocean acidification. The Science Pub presentation is free and open to the public. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Old World Deli, 341 S.W. 2nd St. in Corvallis.

On average, the oceans are about 30 percent more acidic today than they were a century ago, and impacts are already being seen along the West Coast. Waldbusser and his students have turned their attention to the region’s oyster industry, which had $73 million in sales in 2009.

Oyster larvae are sensitive to acidification and Waldbusser, an assistant professor in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, is working to understand why.

“With larval oysters, what we see are developmental issues,” he said. “From the time eggs are fertilized, Pacific oyster larvae will precipitate roughly 90 percent of their body weight as a calcium carbonate shell within 48 hours.”

His research has been supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Oregon Sea Grant and other agencies.

Learn more:

 

under: aquaculture, climate, ocean acidification, research, Science Pub, shellfish

Call for abstracts: Ocean acidification, hypoxia and decision-making

Posted by: | March 27, 2015 Comments Off on Call for abstracts: Ocean acidification, hypoxia and decision-making |

The Coastal and Estuarine Research Foundation (CERF) invites abstracts for presentations as part of an oral session at CERF 2015 this November, highlighting opportunities for linking scientists and natural resource managers to promote effective, science-based decision making on ocean acidification and hypoxia.

Convened by the Ocean Science Trust, the Institute for Natural Resources and Oregon Sea Grant, the session is planned to include talks about ocean acidification and hypoxia in two areas:

  • Social or natural science, focusing on connecting science to ocean and coastal policy, regulation, industry and/or management
  • Decision-making in natural resource management

CERF 2015, the organization’s 23rd biennial conference, takes place in Portland, OR Nov. 8-12. For more information about the conference and registration, visit http://www.erf.org/.

under: conferences, environment, marine policy, marine science, ocean acidification

Videos of Critical Issues in Adapting to Climate Change

Posted by: | January 27, 2015 Comments Off on Videos of Critical Issues in Adapting to Climate Change |

Crashing waves

A set of three short videos highlights some critical issues related to climate change at the Oregon coast. Those issues are flagged by the video titles:

How Soon Do We Have to Think Differently?

. . . How Should We Adapt?

. .  and the overarching goal of having Community Resilience.

The videos, intended primarily for those involved in or concerned about the issues that adapting to climate change presents for coastal areas, were produced by Oregon Sea Grant with the cooperation of a range of climate researchers and coastal professionals who are interviewed on camera. The themes of the videos emerged from surveys, interviews, and workshops conducted by Sea Grant and partners in the last few years.

Coastal professionals in other states, as well as in Oregon, may find the perspectives and insights of these videos useful or provocative.

In addition to the high definition versions on Vimeo.com linked above, the same videos are on YouTube, where closed captioning is available:

 How Soon Do We Have to Think Differently?

How Should We Adapt?

Community Resilience  (Neskowin, Oregon, is the focus.)

NB: The URL for the last video above has been corrected (1/28/15)

 

 

under: climate, climate adaptation, coastal hazards, engineering, environment, Oregon Sea Grant, Oregon State University, science communication, videos

New study finds “saturation state” directly harmful to bivalve larvae

Posted by: | December 16, 2014 Comments Off on New study finds “saturation state” directly harmful to bivalve larvae |

Hatchery-reared oysters (photo by OSU News & Research Communication)The mortality of larval Pacific oysters in Northwest hatcheries has been linked to ocean acidification, yet the rate of increase in anthropogenic carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the decrease of pH in near-shore waters have been questioned as being severe enough to cause the die-offs.

However, a new study of Pacific oyster and Mediterranean mussel larvae found that the earliest larval stages are directly sensitive to saturation state, not carbon dioxide (CO2) or pH. Saturation state is a measure of how corrosive seawater is to the calcium carbonate shells made by bivalve larvae, and how easy it is for larvae to produce their shells.

It is important to note that increasing CO2 lowers saturation state, the researchers say, and saturation state is very sensitive to CO2; the challenge interpreting previous studies is that saturation state and pH typically vary together with increasing CO2. The scientists utilized unique chemical manipulations of seawater to identify the direct sensitivity of larval bivalves to saturation state.

Results of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, are being reported this week in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Bivalves have been around for a long time and have survived different geologic periods of high carbon dioxide levels in marine environments,” said George Waldbusser , an Oregon State University marine ecologist and biogeochemist and lead author on the study, “The difference is that in the past, alkalinity levels buffered increases in CO2, which kept the saturation state higher relative to pH.”

“The difference in the present ocean is that the processes that contribute buffering to the ocean cannot keep pace with the rate of anthropogenic CO2 increase,” added Waldbusser, who is in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.  “As long as the saturation state is high, the oysters and mussels we tested could tolerate CO2 concentrations almost 10 times what they are today.”

The idea that early bivalve development and growth is not as physiologically linked to CO2 or pH levels as previously thought initially seems positive. However, the reverse is actually true, Waldbusser noted. Larval oysters and mussels are so sensitive to the saturation state (which is lowered by increasing CO2) that the threshold for danger will be crossed “decades to centuries” ahead of when CO2   increases (and pH decreases) alone would pose a threat to these bivalve larvae.

Learn more

under: aquaculture, climate, ecology, ocean acidification, research

Estuary flooding may be more extreme than previously thought

Posted by: | November 13, 2014 Comments Off on Estuary flooding may be more extreme than previously thought |
OSU engineer is studying estuary flooding in the Coos Bay estuary (pictured here) and the Tillamook Bay estuary.

OSU engineer is studying estuary flooding in the Coos Bay estuary (pictured here) and the Tillamook Bay estuary.

New research suggests that intense storms could increase the impact of flooding in coastal estuaries. As more water is forced into the estuary, site-specific geographic features will cause more inundation in some parts of the estuary than others, contrary to the uniform rise that was previously expected.

Estuaries are mixing pots between rivers and the ocean – and also tend to be hotspots for human development. Tumultuous offshore waves that break during winter storms force water up into the estuary, causing it to inundate surrounding areas.

David Hill, a coastal engineer at Oregon State University, is studying how to more effectively measure the effects of flooding in estuaries along the Oregon coast.

“In Oregon, estuaries really represent a concentration of a great number of things,” Hill explained. “A concentration of infrastructure and a concentration of commerce. If you look where the population is, it’s all near estuaries.”

Historically, coastal managers have simply drawn a uniform circle around an estuary on a map to estimate flooding, and raised or lowered the line depending on predicted changes in water level. This method, although easy, neglects the complicated physics that take place in such environments.

Hill used historical storm data and future climate predictions to simulate the effect of storms on the Tillamook Bay estuary. His detailed models discovered that not all parts of an estuary are created equal.

“One thing that we found is that inside a large body of water like Tillamook Bay, there can be noticeable differences from one location to another. So the water levels in the whole bay are not the same. The northern part of the bay is more susceptible to higher water levels than the southern part.”

This new information is causing state flood maps to be updated and flood zones reevaluated. Hill says he is looking forward to working directly with coastal communities to find out what information is most useful in their planning.

Waves breaking offshore force water up into the estuary and cause flooding.

Waves breaking offshore force water up into the estuary and cause flooding.

“A big part of this project is wanting to actually connect with organizations within our study sites. They’re the ones that have the best idea of what kind of information is valuable to them and that they need to do short term and long term planning.”

The project is only six months into a two-year cycle funding and already two papers are close to being published; one paper is in press with the Journal of Coastal Research, and the second is in re-review with another journal.

While Hill is focused on the impact to coastal infrastructure, OSU ecologist Sally Hacker is researching what effect inundation will have on eelgrass habitat in the estuaries.

“Eelgrass is a critical habitat for commercially important fish and crabs,” Hacker explained. “We will be using models to project the extent of eelgrass under future sea level elevations.”

Hacker will incorporate Hill’s data into her models to better predict ecosystem changes along the coast.

Scientists say it is likely that storm events will become more frequent and more powerful in the future. Understanding the economic and ecological impacts of flooding will help coastal communities adapt in an ever-changing climate.

Learn more:

 

under: climate, environment, Oregon Sea Grant, research, storms

Confluence: Oregon communities respond to climate change

Posted by: | September 3, 2014 Comments Off on Confluence: Oregon communities respond to climate change |
Confluence cover

Cover by artist Earl Newman

Climate change: Some people feel overwhelmed by it, others argue about it. Oregon Sea Grant researchers, Extension specialists and communicators, meanwhile are working to better understand what a changing climate is already doing to the ocean and coast – and helping coastal communities better prepare themselves for higher and more damaging waves, stronger storms, rising sea level and other anticipated changes.

The latest issue of OSG’s Confluence magazine examines some of the issues coastal Oregon faces, and ways in which Sea Grant is helping citizens and scientists address them, from anticipating the effects of climate change to building resilience in the face of them – and better understanding how people with different backgrounds and philosophies can even communicate about the topic.

Other articles in this issue include

  • Profiles of several Oregon Sea Grant Scholars, and how their student experiences in Sea Grant internships and fellowships helped prepare them for careers in marine science and public policy
  • A new app that helps coastal visitors identify critters they find on the beach – and contribute to citizen science by reporting them.
  • A study of how juvenile Dungeness crab move through coastal waters as they mature, and an exhibit at the Hatfield Marine Science Center that explains what scientists are learning, and how it might benefit the crab fishery.

Learn more

under: climate, coastal hazards, Confluence, crab, engineering, environment, fellowships, fisheries, HMSC Visitor Center, marine policy, marine science, ocean literacy, outreach and engagement, publications, research, scholarships, science communication, social science

Environmental Drivers May be Adding to Loss of Sea Stars

Posted by: | July 24, 2014 Comments Off on Environmental Drivers May be Adding to Loss of Sea Stars |

Sea Star in advanced stage of SSWSNEWPORT – The rapid loss of sea stars along the US west coast may be caused in part by environmental changes, and not solely by a specific pathogen as many had previously thought.

This new hypothesis emerged from a recent symposium on sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS) hosted at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center. Oregon Sea Grant enlisted the Center’s support to bring together 40 top researchers from as far north as Alaska and as far south as Santa Barbara, California. The goal was to clarify the science and develop recommendations for further research, monitoring and possible responses to SSWS.

“I think we can all agree that this is one of the biggest epidemics ever in the ocean in terms of range and the number of species,” said Drew Harvell, a researcher from Cornell who is on sabbatical at Friday Harbor Labs in Washington.

SSWS is the name for a series of symptoms exhibited as a sea star “wastes” away and ultimately dies. Other outbreaks have been observed in the 1970s and 1990s, but despite similar symptoms there are some key differences. The current outbreak—which began in 2013—continued throughout the winter, which has never before been observed, in addition to occurring on a much larger geographic scale.

Through the symposium, researchers from different fields—ecologists, pathologists, veterinarians, and more—joined forces to piece together what is known about the disappearing stars. New evidence has failed to show consistent signs of either bacterial or viral infections, leading scientists to question whether a single pathogen is the culprit. In addition, they noticed correlations between warmer average water temperatures and the syndrome’s appearance.

“Increases in temperature lead to a cascade of oceanographic changes, ultimately leading to lower pH,” said Bruce Menge, an OSU researcher who studies the intertidal zone.

Under this hypothesis, the lower pH would deteriorate the protective outer layers of the sea star. The stars would then struggle to balance their internal concentration of salt and water and would slowly waste away. The increased acidity could also cause calcified bone-like support structures—called ossicles—to erode once exposed.

A similar idea is that the warming temperatures and lower pH could stress the animal and weaken its immune system. After that, any number of pathogens could be responsible for causing the animals to waste and die.

“It’s possible that sea stars only have a limited suite of ways to show they are stressed,” said Mike Murray, a veterinarian from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

A number of ocean conditions – upwelling, for instance – can cause pockets of warmer or cooler water. This variation could explain why a few areas of the west coast have thus far escaped the outbreaks for the most part.

Symposium participants agreed that the exact cause of the outbreak remains a mystery. While environmental drivers are getting new attention, the idea of an infectious disease is still prominent. Harvell and her colleagues are working to identify exactly which pathogen could cause SSWS. All of these potential hypotheses provide testable research questions for future studies.

Going forward, attendees are writing group documents to summarize both what is known and what further actions need to be taken to investigate these and other hypotheses. The papers are expected to be completed in August, and to include suggestions for how to best locate and compare existing environmental data, in addition to encouraging more directed monitoring.

Learn more

To find out more about SSWS, or to get involved in the monitoring, visit these sites with information on citizen science programs near you:

__________________________________

Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Timeline:

  • 1976-79: A devastating SSWS event took out large numbers of sea stars along the west coast. It was believed to be a bacterial event due to the effectiveness of antibiotic treatment.
  • 1983-84: SSWS was found in areas with warmer waters as a result of an intense El Nino event. The outbreak spread to other echinoderms  such as sea urchins. Cold winter temperatures halted the spread.
  • 1997-98: Another round of SSWS hit, also spurred by an intense El Nino, but subsided in the winter like previous events.
  • June 2013: The current bout of SSWS was discovered in Olympic National Park in Washington.
  • October/November 2013: Sea stars began dying in large numbers in Monterey, CA.
  • December 2013: SSWS was detected at sites ranging from Alaska to San Diego. Oregon seemed immune at this point for unknown reasons.
  • January 2014: Despite the fact that previous SSWS events subsided during the winter,  the current outbreak continued to spread, especially in southern California.
  • April 2014: While SSWS spread widely along the California and Washington coasts, less than 1% of Oregon stars exhibited signs of the disease.
  • May 2014: About halfway through the month, the percentage of stars exhibiting SSWS skyrocketed in Oregon to between 40 and 60 percent of the populations surveyed.
  • June 2014: Researchers convened at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR, to discuss what is known and what should be done about SSWS.
under: climate, conferences, ecology, environment, marine animals, Oregon State University, research

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories