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  1. Abstract

    Early life history stages of marine fishes are often more susceptible to environmental stressors than adult stages. This vulnerability is likely exacerbated for species that lay benthic egg masses bound to substrate because the embryos cannot evade locally unfavorable environmental conditions. Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus), a benthic egg layer, is an ecologically and economically significant predator in the highly-productive California Current System (CCS). We ran a flow-through mesocosm experiment that exposed Lingcod eggs collected from Monterey Bay, CA to conditions we expect to see in the central CCS by the year 2050 and 2100. Exposure to temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen concentrations projected by the year 2050 halved the successful hatch of Lingcod embryos and significantly reduced the size of day-1 larvae. In the year 2100 treatment, viable hatch plummeted (3% of normal), larvae were undersized (83% of normal), yolk reserves were exhausted (38% of normal), and deformities were widespread (94% of individuals). This experiment is the first to expose marine benthic eggs to future temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen conditions in concert. Lingcod are a potential indicator species for other benthic egg layers for which global change conditions may significantly diminish recruitment rates.

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  2. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Climate change is responsible for increased frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme events, such as marine heatwaves (MHWs). Within eastern boundary current systems, MHWs have profound impacts on temperature-nutrient dynamics that drive primary productivity. Bull kelp ( Nereocystis luetkeana ) forests, a vital nearshore habitat, experienced unprecedented losses along 350 km of coastline in northern California beginning in 2014 and continuing through 2019. These losses have had devastating consequences to northern California communities, economies, and fisheries. Using a suite of in situ and satellite-derived data, we demonstrate that the abrupt ecosystem shift initiated by a multi-year MHW was preceded by declines in keystone predator population densities. We show strong evidence that northern California kelp forests, while temporally dynamic, were historically resilient to fluctuating environmental conditions, even in the absence of key top predators, but that a series of coupled environmental and biological shifts between 2014 and 2016 resulted in the formation of a persistent, altered ecosystem state with low primary productivity. Based on our findings, we recommend the implementation of ecosystem-based and adaptive management strategies, such as (1) monitoring the status of key ecosystem attributes: kelp distribution and abundance, and densities of sea urchins and their predators, (2) developing management responses to threshold levels of these attributes, and (3) creating quantitative restoration suitability indices for informing kelp restoration efforts. 
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  3. Surface-canopy forming kelps provide the foundation for ecosystems that are ecologically, culturally, and economically important. However, these kelp forests are naturally dynamic systems that are also threatened by a range of global and local pressures. As a result, there is a need for tools that enable managers to reliably track changes in their distribution, abundance, and health in a timely manner. Remote sensing data availability has increased dramatically in recent years and this data represents a valuable tool for monitoring surface-canopy forming kelps. However, the choice of remote sensing data and analytic approach must be properly matched to management objectives and tailored to the physical and biological characteristics of the region of interest. This review identifies remote sensing datasets and analyses best suited to address different management needs and environmental settings using case studies from the west coast of North America. We highlight the importance of integrating different datasets and approaches to facilitate comparisons across regions and promote coordination of management strategies. 
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  4. Abstract

    Marine protected areas (MPAs) have gained attention as a conservation tool for enhancing ecosystem resilience to climate change. However, empirical evidence explicitly linking MPAs to enhanced ecological resilience is limited and mixed. To better understand whether MPAs can buffer climate impacts, we tested the resistance and recovery of marine communities to the 2014–2016 Northeast Pacific heatwave in the largest scientifically designed MPA network in the world off the coast of California, United States. The network consists of 124 MPAs (48 no‐take state marine reserves, and 76 partial‐take or special regulation conservation areas) implemented at different times, with full implementation completed in 2012. We compared fish, benthic invertebrate, and macroalgal community structure inside and outside of 13 no‐take MPAs across rocky intertidal, kelp forest, shallow reef, and deep reef nearshore habitats in California's Central Coast region from 2007 to 2020. We also explored whether MPA features, including age, size, depth, proportion rock, historic fishing pressure, habitat diversity and richness, connectivity, and fish biomass response ratios (proxy for ecological performance), conferred climate resilience for kelp forest and rocky intertidal habitats spanning 28 MPAs across the full network. Ecological communities dramatically shifted due to the marine heatwave across all four nearshore habitats, and MPAs did not facilitate habitat‐wide resistance or recovery. Only in protected rocky intertidal habitats did community structure significantly resist marine heatwave impacts. Community shifts were associated with a pronounced decline in the relative proportion of cold water species and an increase in warm water species. MPA features did not explain resistance or recovery to the marine heatwave. Collectively, our findings suggest that MPAs have limited ability to mitigate the impacts of marine heatwaves on community structure. Given that mechanisms of resilience to climate perturbations are complex, there is a clear need to expand assessments of ecosystem‐wide consequences resulting from acute climate‐driven perturbations, and the potential role of regulatory protection in mitigating community structure changes.

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