Some of the longest and most comprehensive marine ecosystem monitoring programs were established in the Gulf of Alaska following the environmental disaster of the
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Extreme environmental fluctuations such as marine heatwaves (MHWs) can have devastating effects on ecosystem health and functioning through rapid population declines and destabilization of trophic interactions. However, recent studies have highlighted that population tolerance to MHWs is variable, with some populations even benefitting from MHWs. A number of factors can explain variation in responses between populations including their genetic variation, previous thermal experience and the cumulative heatwave intensity (°C d) of the heatwave itself. We disentangle the contributions of these factors on population mortality and post-heatwave growth rates by experimentally simulating heatwaves (7.5 or 9.2°C, for up to 9 days) for three genotypes of the Southern Ocean diatom Actinocyclus actinochilus . The effects of simulated heatwaves on mortality and population growth rates varied with genotype, thermal experience and the cumulative intensity of the heatwave itself. Firstly, hotter and longer heatwaves increased mortality and decreased post-heatwave growth rates relative to milder, shorter heatwaves. Secondly, growth above the thermal optimum before heatwaves exacerbated heatwave-associated negative effects, leading to increased mortality during heatwaves and slower growth after heatwaves. Thirdly, hotter and longer heatwaves resulted in more pronounced changes to thermal optima (T opt ) immediately following heatwaves. Finally, there is substantial intraspecific variationmore »
Sediment-oil-agglomerates (SOA) are one of the most common forms of contamination impacting shores after a major oil spill; and following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) accident, large numbers of SOAs were buried in the sandy beaches of the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. SOAs provide a source of toxic oil compounds, and although SOAs can persist for many years, their long-term fate was unknown. Here we report the results of a 3-year
in-situexperiment that quantified the degradation of standardized SOAs buried in the upper 50 cm of a North Florida sandy beach. Time series of hydrocarbon mass, carbon content, n-alkanes, PAHs, and fluorescence indicate that the decomposition of golf-ball-size DWH-SOAs embedded in beach sand takes at least 32 years, while SOA degradation without sediment contact would require more than 100 years. SOA alkane and PAH decay rates within the sediment were similar to those at the beach surface. The porous structure of the SOAs kept their cores oxygen-replete. The results reveal that SOAs buried deep in beach sands can be decomposed through relatively rapid aerobic microbial oil degradation in the tidally ventilated permeable beach sand, emphasizing the role of the sandy beach as an aerobic biocatalytical reactor at the land-ocean interface.
Interannual measures of nutritional stress during a marine heatwave (the Blob) differ between two North Pacific seabird species
‘The Blob’, a mass of anomalously warm water in the Northeast Pacific Ocean peaking from 2014 to 2016, caused a decrease in primary productivity with cascading effects on the marine ecosystem. Among the more obvious manifestations of the event were seabird breeding failures and mass mortality events. Here, we used corticosterone in breast feathers (fCort), grown in the winter period during migration, as an indicator of nutritional stress to investigate the impact of the Blob on two sentinel Pacific auk species (family Alcidae). Feathers were collected from breeding females over 8 years from 2010 to 2017, encompassing the Blob period. Since Pacific auks replace body feathers at sea during the migratory period, measures of fCort provide an accumulated measure of nutritional stress or allostatic load during this time. Changes in diet were also measured using δ15N and δ13C values from feathers. Relative to years prior to the Blob, the primarily zooplanktivorous Cassin’s auklets (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) had elevated fCort in 2014–2017, which correlated with the occurrence of the Blob and a recovery period afterwards, with relatively stable feather isotope values. In contrast, generalist rhinoceros auklets (Cerorhinca monocerata) displayed stable fCort values across years and increased δ15N values during the Blob. Asmore »
Sixfold Increase in Historical Northern Hemisphere Concurrent Large Heatwaves Driven by Warming and Changing Atmospheric Circulations
Simultaneous heatwaves affecting multiple regions (referred to as concurrent heatwaves) pose compounding threats to various natural and societal systems, including global food chains, emergency response systems, and reinsurance industries. While anthropogenic climate change is increasing heatwave risks across most regions, the interactions between warming and circulation changes that yield concurrent heatwaves remain understudied. Here, we quantify historical (1979–2019) trends in concurrent heatwaves during the warm season [May–September (MJJAS)] across the Northern Hemisphere mid- to high latitudes. We find a significant increase of ∼46% in the mean spatial extent of concurrent heatwaves and ∼17% increase in their maximum intensity, and an approximately sixfold increase in their frequency. Using self-organizing maps, we identify large-scale circulation patterns (300 hPa) associated with specific concurrent heatwave configurations across Northern Hemisphere regions. We show that observed changes in the frequency of specific circulation patterns preferentially increase the risk of concurrent heatwaves across particular regions. Patterns linking concurrent heatwaves across eastern North America, eastern and northern Europe, parts of Asia, and the Barents and Kara Seas show the largest increases in frequency (∼5.9 additional days per decade). We also quantify the relative contributions of circulation pattern changes and warming to overall observed concurrent heatwave day frequencymore »
Heatwaves pose a major threat to human health, ecosystems, and human systems. Simultaneous heatwaves affecting multiple regions can exacerbate such threats. For example, multiple food-producing regions simultaneously undergoing heat-related crop damage could drive global food shortages. We assess recent changes in the occurrence of simultaneous large heatwaves. Such simultaneous heatwaves are 7 times more likely now than 40 years ago. They are also hotter and affect a larger area. Their increasing occurrence is mainly driven by warming baseline temperatures due to global heating, but changes in weather patterns contribute to disproportionate increases over parts of Europe, the eastern United States, and Asia. Better understanding the drivers of weather pattern changes is therefore important for understanding future concurrent heatwave characteristics and their impacts.
Uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by the surface ocean is leading to global ocean acidification, but regional variations in ocean circulation and mixing can dampen or accelerate apparent acidification rates. Here we use a regional ocean model simulation for the years 1980 to 2013 and observational data to investigate how ocean fluctuations impact acidification rates in surface waters of the Gulf of Alaska. We find that large-scale atmospheric forcing influenced local winds and upwelling strength, which in turn affected ocean acidification rate. Specifically, variability in local wind stress curl depressed sea surface height in the subpolar gyre over decade-long intervals, which increased upwelling of nitrate- and dissolved inorganic carbon-rich waters and enhanced apparent ocean acidification rates. We define this sea surface height variability as the Northern Gulf of Alaska Oscillation and suggest that it can cause extreme acidification events that are detrimental to ecosystem health and fisheries.