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  1. Abstract

    Ocean warming has both direct physiological and indirect ecological consequences for marine organisms. Sessile animals may be particularly vulnerable to anomalous warming given constraints in food acquisition and reproduction imposed by sessility. In temperate reef ecosystems, sessile suspension feeding invertebrates provide food for an array of mobile species and act as a critical trophic link between the plankton and the benthos. Using 14 years of seasonal benthic community data across five coastal reefs, we evaluated how communities of sessile invertebrates in southern California kelp forests responded to the “Blob”, a period of anomalously high temperatures and low phytoplankton production. We show that this event had prolonged consequences for kelp forest ecosystems. Changes to community structure, including species invasions, have persisted six years post-Blob, suggesting that a climate-driven shift in California kelp forests is underway.

  2. abstract Coastal ecosystems play a disproportionately large role in society, and climate change is altering their ecological structure and function, as well as their highly valued goods and services. In the present article, we review the results from decade-scale research on coastal ecosystems shaped by foundation species (e.g., coral reefs, kelp forests, coastal marshes, seagrass meadows, mangrove forests, barrier islands) to show how climate change is altering their ecological attributes and services. We demonstrate the value of site-based, long-term studies for quantifying the resilience of coastal systems to climate forcing, identifying thresholds that cause shifts in ecological state, and investigating the capacity of coastal ecosystems to adapt to climate change and the biological mechanisms that underlie it. We draw extensively from research conducted at coastal ecosystems studied by the US Long Term Ecological Research Network, where long-term, spatially extensive observational data are coupled with shorter-term mechanistic studies to understand the ecological consequences of climate change.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 16, 2023
  3. Monitoring is a crucial tool for measuring the progress and success of environmental policies and management programs. While many studies have evaluated the effectiveness of biodiversity sampling methods, few have compared their efficiency, which is crucial given the funding constraints present in all conservation efforts. In this study we demonstrate how existing analytical tools can be applied to (i) assess the relationship between sampling effort and resulting confidence in biodiversity metrics, and (ii) compare the efficiency of different methods for monitoring biodiversity. We tested this methodology on data from marine fish surveys, including: roving surveys within permanent areas, randomly placed belt transects, and randomly placed transects conducted by citizen scientists using a reduced species list. We constructed efficiency curves describing how increasing effort spent on each method reduced uncertainty in biodiversity estimates and the associated ability to detect change in diversity. All programs produced comparable measurements of species diversity for all metrics despite substantial differences in the species being surveyed by each method. The uncertainty of diversity estimations fell faster and reached a lower level for the roving diver method. Strikingly, the transect method conducted by citizen scientists performed almost identically to the more taxonomically resolved transect method conducted bymore »professional scientists, suggesting that sampling strategies that recorded only a subset of species could still be effective, as long as the excluded species were chosen strategically. The methodology described here can guide decisions about how to measure biodiversity and optimize the resources available for monitoring, ultimately improving management outcomes.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 16, 2023
  4. Disturbances often disproportionately impact different vegetation layers in forests and other vertically stratified ecosystems, shaping community structure and ecosystem function. However, disturbance-driven changes may be mediated by environmental conditions that affect habitat quality and species interactions. In a decade-long field experiment, we tested how kelp forest net primary productivity (NPP) responds to repeated canopy loss along a gradient in grazing and substrate suitability. We discovered that habitat quality can mediate the effects of intensified disturbance on canopy and understory NPP. Experimental annual and quarterly disturbances suppressed total macroalgal NPP, but effects were strongest in high- quality habitats that supported dense kelp canopies that were removed by disturbance. Understory macroalgae partly compensated for canopy NPP losses and this effect magnified with increasing habitat quality. Disturbance-driven increases in understory NPP were still rising after 5-10 years of disturbance, demonstrating the value of long-term experimentation for understanding ecosystem responses to changing disturbance regimes.
  5. Abstract

    Biodiversity is changing at an accelerating rate at both local and regional scales. Beta diversity, which quantifies species turnover between these two scales, is emerging as a key driver of ecosystem function that can inform spatial conservation. Yet measuring biodiversity remains a major challenge, especially in aquatic ecosystems. Decoding environmental DNA (eDNA) left behind by organisms offers the possibility of detecting species sans direct observation, a Rosetta Stone for biodiversity. While eDNA has proven useful to illuminate diversity in aquatic ecosystems, its utility for measuring beta diversity over spatial scales small enough to be relevant to conservation purposes is poorly known. Here we tested how eDNA performs relative to underwater visual census (UVC) to evaluate beta diversity of marine communities. We paired UVC with 12S eDNA metabarcoding and used a spatially structured hierarchical sampling design to assess key spatial metrics of fish communities on temperate rocky reefs in southern California. eDNA provided a more-detailed picture of the main sources of spatial variation in both taxonomic richness and community turnover, which primarily arose due to strong species filtering within and among rocky reefs. As expected, eDNA detected more taxa at the regional scale (69 vs. 38) which accumulated quickly withmore »space and plateaued at only ~ 11 samples. Conversely, the discovery rate of new taxa was slower with no sign of saturation for UVC. Based on historical records in the region (2000–2018) we found that 6.9 times more UVC samples would be required to detect 50 taxa compared to eDNA. Our results show that eDNA metabarcoding can outperform diver counts to capture the spatial patterns in biodiversity at fine scales with less field effort and more power than traditional methods, supporting the notion that eDNA is a critical scientific tool for detecting biodiversity changes in aquatic ecosystems.

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  6. Hyrenbach, David (Ed.)
    The coastal zone provides foraging opportunities for insular populations of terrestrial mammals, allowing for expanded habitat use, increased dietary breadth, and locally higher population densities. We examined the use of sandy beach resources by the threatened island fox ( Urocyon littoralis ) on the California Channel Islands using scat analysis, surveys of potential prey, beach habitat attributes, and stable isotope analysis. Consumption of beach invertebrates, primarily intertidal talitrid amphipods ( Megalorchestia spp.) by island fox varied with abundance of these prey across sites. Distance-based linear modeling revealed that abundance of giant kelp ( Macrocystis pyrifera ) wrack, rather than beach physical attributes, explained the largest amount of variation in talitrid amphipod abundance and biomass across beaches. δ 13 C and δ 15 N values of fox whisker (vibrissae) segments suggested individualism in diet, with generally low δ 13 C and δ 15 N values of some foxes consistent with specializing on primarily terrestrial foods, contrasting with the higher isotope values of other individuals that suggested a sustained use of sandy beach resources, the importance of which varied over time. Abundant allochthonous marine resources on beaches, including inputs of giant kelp, may expand habitat use and diet breadth of the islandmore »fox, increasing population resilience during declines in terrestrial resources associated with climate variability and long-term climate change.« less