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  1. Abstract

    Ocean acidification is progressing rapidly in the California Current System (CCS), a region already susceptible to reduced aragonite saturation state due to seasonal coastal upwelling. Results from a high-resolution (~ 3 km), coupled physical-biogeochemical model highlight that the intensity, duration, and severity of undersaturation events exhibit high interannual variability along the central CCS shelfbreak. Variability in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) along the bottom of the 100-m isobath explains 70–90% of event severity variance over the range of latitudes where most severe conditions occur. An empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis further reveals that interannual event variability is explained by a combination coastal upwelling intensity and DIC content in upwelled source waters. Simulated regional DIC exhibits low frequency temporal variability resembling that of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, and is explained by changes to water mass composition in the CCS. While regional DIC concentrations and upwelling intensity individually explain 9 and 43% of year-to-year variability in undersaturation event severity, their combined influence accounts for 66% of the variance. The mechanistic description of exposure to undersaturated conditions presented here provides important context for monitoring the progression of ocean acidification in the CCS and identifies conditions leading to increased vulnerability for ecologically and commercially important species.

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  2. Abstract. Global trends of ocean warming, deoxygenation, and acidification are not easily extrapolated to coastal environments. Local factors, including intricate hydrodynamics, high primary productivity, freshwater inputs, and pollution, can exacerbate or attenuate global trends and produce complex mosaics of physiologically stressful or favorable conditions for organisms. In the California Current System (CCS), coastal oceanographic monitoring programs document some of this complexity; however, data fragmentation and limited data availability constrain our understanding of when and where intersecting stressful temperatures, carbonate system conditions, and reduced oxygen availability manifest. Here, we undertake a large data synthesis to compile, format, and quality-control publicly available oceanographic data from the US West Coast to create an accessible database for coastal CCS climate risk mapping, available from the National Centers for Environmental Information (accession 0277984) at (Kennedy et al., 2023). With this synthesis, we combine publicly available observations and data contributed by the author team from synoptic oceanographic cruises, autonomous sensors, and shore samples with relevance to coastal ocean acidification and hypoxia (OAH) risk. This large-scale compilation includes 13.7 million observations from 66 sources and spans 1949 to 2020. Here, we discuss the quality and composition of the synthesized dataset, the spatial and temporal distribution of available data, and examples of potential analyses. This dataset will provide a valuable tool for scientists supporting policy- and management-relevant investigations including assessing regional and local climate risk, evaluating the efficacy and completeness of CCS monitoring efforts, and elucidating spatiotemporal scales of coastal oceanographic variability.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  3. 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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  4. Abstract

    Variability in primary producers' responses to environmental change may buffer higher trophic levels against shifts in basal resource composition. Then again, in instances where there is a lack of functional redundancy because consumers rely on a few species to meet their energetic requirements at specific times of the year, altered community production dynamics may significantly impact food web resilience. In high‐latitude kelp forests, a complementary annual phenology of seaweed production supports coastal marine consumers' metabolic needs across large seasonal variations in their environment. Yet, marine consumers in these systems may face significant metabolic stress under the pronounced low pH conditions expected in future winters, particularly if they lack the resources to support their increased energetic demands. In this study, we investigate how the growth and nutritional value of three dominant, coexisting macroalgal species found in subpolar kelp forests will respond to ocean acidification and warming in future winter and summer seasons. We find that the three kelpsMacrocystis pyrifera,Hedophyllum nigripes, andNeoagarum fimbriatumdiffer in their vulnerability to future environmental conditions, and that the seasonal environmental context of nutrient and light availability shapes these responses. Our results suggest that poleward fringe populations ofM. pyriferamay be relatively resilient to anticipated ocean warming and acidification. In contrast, ocean warming conditions caused a decrease in the biomass and nutritional quality of both understory kelps. Considering the unique production phenology ofH. nigripes, we emphasize that negative impacts on this species in future winters may be of consequence to consumer energetics in this system. This work highlights how interspecific variation in autotrophs' responses to global change can disrupt the diversity and phenological structure of energy supply available to higher trophic levels.

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  5. Marine ecosystems are increasingly impacted by global environmental changes, including warming temperatures, deoxygenation, and ocean acidification. Marine scientists recognize intuitively that these environmental changes are translated into community changes via organismal physiology. However, physiology remains a black box in many ecological studies, and coexisting species in a community are often assumed to respond similarly to environmental stressors. Here, we emphasize how greater attention to physiology can improve our ability to predict the emergent effects of ocean change. In particular, understanding shifts in the intensity and outcome of species interactions such as competition and predation requires a sharpened focus on physiological variation among community members and the energetic demands and trophic mismatches generated by environmental changes. Our review also highlights how key species interactions that are sensitive to environmental change can operate as ecological leverage points through which small changes in abiotic conditions are amplified into large changes in marine ecosystems. 
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  6. Abstract

    Biological processes play important roles in determining how global changes manifest at local scales. Primary producers can absorb increased CO2via daytime photosynthesis, modifying pH in aquatic ecosystems. Yet producers and consumers also increase CO2via respiration. It is unclear whether biological modification of pH differs across the year, and, if so, what biotic and abiotic drivers underlie temporal differences. We addressed these questions using the intensive study of tide pool ecosystems in Alaska, USA, including quarterly surveys of 34 pools over 1 year and monthly surveys of five pools from spring to fall in a second year. We measured physical conditions, community composition, and changes in pH and dissolved oxygen during the day and night. We detected strong temporal patterns in pH dynamics. Our measurements indicate that pH modification varies spatially (between tide pools) and temporally (across months). This variation in pH dynamics mirrored changes in dissolved oxygen and was associated with community composition, including both relative abundance and diversity of benthic producers and consumers, whose role differed across the year, particularly at night. These results highlight the importance of the time of year when considering the ways that community composition influences pH conditions in aquatic ecosystems.

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  7. Production rates reported for canopy‐forming kelps have highlighted the potential contributions of these foundational macroalgal species to carbon cycling and sequestration on a globally relevant scale. Yet, the production dynamics of many kelp species remain poorly resolved. For example, productivity estimates for the widely distributed giant kelpMacrocystis pyriferaare based on a few studies from the center of this species' range. To address this geospatial bias, we surveyed giant kelp beds in their high latitude fringe habitat in southeast Alaska to quantify foliar standing crop, growth and loss rates, and productivity ofM. pyriferaand co‐occurring understory kelpsHedophyllum nigripesandNeoagarum fimbriatum. We found that giant kelp beds at the poleward edge of their range produce ~150 g C · m−2· year−1from a standing biomass that turns over an estimated 2.1 times per year, substantially lower rates than have been observed at lower latitudes. Although the productivity of high latitudeM. pyriferadwarfs production by associated understory kelps in both winter and summer seasons, phenological differences in growth and relative carbon and nitrogen content among the three kelp species suggests their complementary value as nutritional resources to consumers. This work represents the highest latitude consideration ofM. pyriferaforest production to date, providing a valuable quantification of kelp carbon cycling in this highly seasonal environment.

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  8. Humans were considered external drivers in much foundational ecological research. A recognition that humans are embedded in the complex interaction networks we study can provide new insight into our ecological paradigms. Here, we use time-series data spanning three decades to explore the effects of human harvesting on otter–urchin–kelp trophic cascades in southeast Alaska. These effects were inferred from variation in sea urchin and kelp abundance following the post fur trade repatriation of otters and a subsequent localized reduction of otters by human harvest in one location. In an example of a classic trophic cascade, otter repatriation was followed by a 99% reduction in urchin biomass density and a greater than 99% increase in kelp density region wide. Recent spatially concentrated harvesting of otters was associated with a localized 70% decline in otter abundance in one location, with urchins increasing and kelps declining in accordance with the spatial pattern of otter occupancy within that region. While the otter–urchin–kelp trophic cascade has been associated with alternative community states at the regional scale, this research highlights how small-scale variability in otter occupancy, ostensibly due to spatial variability in harvesting or the risk landscape for otters, can result in within-region patchiness in these community states. 
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    In upwelling systems, fluctuations in seawater pH, dissolved oxygen (DO), and temperature can expose species to extremes that differ greatly from the mean conditions. Understanding the nature of this exposure to extremes, including how exposure to low pH, low DO concentrations, and temperature varies spatiotemporally and in the context of other drivers, is critical for informing global change biology. Here, we use a 4‐yr time series of coupled pH, DO, and temperature observations at six nearshore kelp forest sites spanning the coast of California to characterize the variability and covariance among these drivers. We further compare observed properties to those derived from a high‐resolution coupled physical‐biogeochemical simulation for the central California current system. We find the intensity, duration, and severity of exposure to extreme conditions beyond heuristic, biologically relevant pHT(< 7.7), and DO (< 4.6 mg L−1) values were greatest at sites with strong upwelling. In contrast, sites with relatively weaker upwelling had little exposure to pH or DO conditions below these heuristic values but had higher and more variable temperature. The covariance between pH, DO, and temperature was highest in sites with strong upwelling and weakest in sites with limited upwelling. These relationships among pH, DO, and temperature at the observation locations were mirrored in the model, and model output highlighted geographic differences in exposure regimes across the California marine protected area network. Together, these results provide important insight into the conditions marine ecosystems are exposed to relevant to studies of global change biology.

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