Ocean Ecology

Oceans are home to the majority of plant and animal life on the planet. Climate change is expected to alter marine ecology both directly, through lower pH and elevated temperatures on the organismal level, and indirectly, via changes in community dynamics and food and habitat alteration on the aggregate level. A major concern is the possible effect climate change may have on ocean productivity. Phytoplankton, small plants found near the ocean's surface that comprise the basis for the marine food web, are the foundation for almost all ocean life, and play a key role in regulating global carbon levels. It is unknown how these organisms will react to changes in ocean acidity, increased nutrient mixing, and changes in temperature. However, any dramatic short-term alterations in founda-tional food web interactions are expected to have cascading effects through the food chain.

Species migration and shifts or expansion in species range are also expected as global ocean temperature continues to rise. Scientists expect that some organisms will thrive, as others will suffer. This is expected to upset ecological equilibrium in certain areas and likely affect commercial and recreational fisheries and

ACE Basin National Estuarine Research Reserve: A view of wetlands and tidal streams, Ashe Island, North Carolina.

tourism in susceptible areas. Warm water species are expected to move toward the poles. This trend has already been witnessed over the last decade in certain fisheries closer to the equator.

sEE ALsO: Atlantic Ocean; Current; Glaciers, Retreating; Indian Ocean; Ocean Component of Models; Oceanography; Pacific Ocean; Southern Ocean.

BIBLIOGRApHY. Ken Caldeira and M.E. Wickett, "Anthropogenic Carbon and Ocean Ph," Nature (v.425/6956, 2003); G.C. Hays, A.J. Richardson, and Carol Robinson, "Climate Change and Marine Plankton," Trends in Ecology & Evolution (v.20/6, 2005); M.F. Meier, et al., "Glaciers Dominate Eustatic Sea-Level Rise in the 21st Century," Science (v.298/5602, 2002); Dorrik Stow, Oceans: An Illustrated Reference (University of Chicago Press, 2005).

Steven Gray David Howe Rebecca Jordan Rutgers University

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