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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. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 1, 2023
  5. Abstract Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are designed to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services. Some MPAs are also established to benefit fisheries through increased egg and larval production, or the spillover of mobile juveniles and adults. Whether spillover influences fishery landings depend on the population status and movement patterns of target species both inside and outside of MPAs, as well as the status of the fishery and behavior of the fleet. We tested whether an increase in the lobster population inside two newly established MPAs influenced local catch, fishing effort, and catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE) within the sustainable California spiny lobster fishery. We found greater build-up of lobsters within MPAs relative to unprotected areas, and greater increases in fishing effort and total lobster catch, but not CPUE, in fishing zones containing MPAs vs. those without MPAs. Our results show that a 35% reduction in fishing area resulting from MPA designation was compensated for by a 225% increase in total catch after 6-years, thus indicating at a local scale that the trade-off of fishing ground for no-fishing zones benefitted the fishery.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.