Presentation Title

Eelgrass Resilience and Climate Change in Puget Sound

Session Title

Changes in Ecosystem Function and Climate Revealed by Long-term Monitoring in the Salish Sea

Conference Track

Climate Change and Ocean Acidification

Conference Name

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (2016 : Vancouver, B.C.)

Contributing Repository

Digital content made available by University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Type of Presentation

Oral

Abstract

To what degree will climate change affect seagrass productivity, abundance and distribution in Puget Sound and other northwest systems? While the widespread global distribution of eelgrass and its ability to recover from large-scale disturbances suggests a relatively high level of adaptability and resilience, complex ecological interactions make reliable predictions of the effect of climate variation and change on eelgrass difficult. We have been using field measurements of density and growth rate over several decades, physiological experiments, and numerical modeling coupled with natural experiments associated with anomalous climatic and ocean conditions to formulate broad hypotheses. These data have shown that: (1) inter-annual variation in growth, density and biomass is affected by variable sea level, water temperature and light conditions; (2) these interactions are complex and dependent upon the system; (3) highly anomalous conditions (e.g., ENSO; droughts) that persist for more than one year may drive a system-wide collapse of eelgrass to a point were recovery is severely protracted; (4) local disturbances (e.g., eutrophication; turbidity; grazing) can interact with climate variation to exacerbate unfavorable conditions; and, (5) success of efforts to restore eelgrass may be hampered by a severely altered system state. We conclude that eelgrass is resilient to moderate to strong climatic variations lasting a few years, but is susceptible to collapse and extirpation when extreme, unprecedented climatic conditions persist over a similar time period.

Rights

This resource is displayed for educational purposes only and may be subject to U.S. and international copyright laws. For more information about rights or obtaining copies of this resource, please contact University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225-9103, USA (360-650-7534; heritage.resources@wwu.edu) and refer to the collection name and identifier. Any materials cited must be attributed to the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference Records, University Archives, Heritage Resources, Western Libraries, Western Washington University.

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

Type

Text

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Eelgrass Resilience and Climate Change in Puget Sound

2016SSEC

To what degree will climate change affect seagrass productivity, abundance and distribution in Puget Sound and other northwest systems? While the widespread global distribution of eelgrass and its ability to recover from large-scale disturbances suggests a relatively high level of adaptability and resilience, complex ecological interactions make reliable predictions of the effect of climate variation and change on eelgrass difficult. We have been using field measurements of density and growth rate over several decades, physiological experiments, and numerical modeling coupled with natural experiments associated with anomalous climatic and ocean conditions to formulate broad hypotheses. These data have shown that: (1) inter-annual variation in growth, density and biomass is affected by variable sea level, water temperature and light conditions; (2) these interactions are complex and dependent upon the system; (3) highly anomalous conditions (e.g., ENSO; droughts) that persist for more than one year may drive a system-wide collapse of eelgrass to a point were recovery is severely protracted; (4) local disturbances (e.g., eutrophication; turbidity; grazing) can interact with climate variation to exacerbate unfavorable conditions; and, (5) success of efforts to restore eelgrass may be hampered by a severely altered system state. We conclude that eelgrass is resilient to moderate to strong climatic variations lasting a few years, but is susceptible to collapse and extirpation when extreme, unprecedented climatic conditions persist over a similar time period.