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  1. Abstract

    Realistic simulation of nearshore (from the shoreline to approximately 10‐km offshore) Lagrangian material transport is required for physical, biological, and ecological investigations of the coastal ocean. Recently, high‐resolution simulations of the coastal ocean have revealed a shelf populated with small‐scale, rapidly evolving currents that arise at resolutions100 m. However, many historical and recent investigations of coastal connectivity utilize circulation models with ≈1‐km resolution. Here we show a resolution sensitivity to simulated Lagrangian transport and coastal connectivity with a hierarchy of Regional Oceanic Modeling System simulations of the Santa Barbara Channel at Δx= 1, 0.3, 0.1, and 0.036 km. At higher resolution ( 100 m), rapid alongshore and vertical transport occurs in regions less than 1 km from the shoreline due to submesoscale shelf currents that open up new transport pathways on the shelf: submesoscale fronts and filaments, topographic wakes, and narrow alongshore jets. Shallow‐water fronts and filaments induce early time downwelling and subsequent dispersal at depth of surface material; this is not captured at coarser resolution (Δx= 1 km). Differences in three‐dimensional and two‐dimensional transport are explored in a higher‐resolution simulation: In general, three‐dimensional trajectories are more dispersive than two‐dimensional, due to a separation in their respective trajectories.

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  2. Abstract

    Ecosystems across the United States are changing in complex and surprising ways. Ongoing demand for critical ecosystem services requires an understanding of the populations and communities in these ecosystems in the future. This paper represents a synthesis effort of the U.S. National Science Foundation‐funded Long‐Term Ecological Research (LTER) network addressing the core research area of “populations and communities.” The objective of this effort was to show the importance of long‐term data collection and experiments for addressing the hardest questions in scientific ecology that have significant implications for environmental policy and management. Each LTER site developed at least one compelling case study about what their site could look like in 50–100 yr as human and environmental drivers influencing specific ecosystems change. As the case studies were prepared, five themes emerged, and the studies were grouped into papers in this LTER Futures Special Feature addressing state change, connectivity, resilience, time lags, and cascading effects. This paper addresses the “connectivity” theme and has examples from the Phoenix (urban), Niwot Ridge (alpine tundra), McMurdo Dry Valleys (polar desert), Plum Island (coastal), Santa Barbara Coastal (coastal), and Jornada (arid grassland and shrubland) sites. Connectivity has multiple dimensions, ranging from multi‐scalar interactions in space to complex interactions over time that govern the transport of materials and the distribution and movement of organisms. The case studies presented here range widely, showing how land‐use legacies interact with climate to alter the structure and function of arid ecosystems and flows of resources and organisms in Antarctic polar desert, alpine, urban, and coastal marine ecosystems. Long‐term ecological research demonstrates that connectivity can, in some circumstances, sustain valuable ecosystem functions, such as the persistence of foundation species and their associated biodiversity or, it can be an agent of state change, as when it increases wind and water erosion. Increased connectivity due to warming can also lead to species range expansions or contractions and the introduction of undesirable species. Continued long‐term studies are essential for addressing the complexities of connectivity. The diversity of ecosystems within the LTER network is a strong platform for these studies.

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  3. Abstract

    Globally, anthropogenic pressures are reducing the abundances of marine species and altering ecosystems through modification of trophic interactions. Yet, consumer declines also disrupt important bottom‐up processes, like nutrient recycling, which are critical for ecosystem functioning. Consumer‐mediated nutrient dynamics (CND) is now considered a major biogeochemical component of most ecosystems, but lacking long‐term studies, it is difficult to predict how CND will respond to accelerating disturbances in the wake of global change. To aid such predictions, we coupled empirical ammonium excretion rates with an 18‐year time series of the standing biomass of common benthic macroinvertebrates in southern California kelp forests. This time series of excretion rates encompassed an extended period of extreme ocean warming, disease outbreaks, and the abolishment of fishing at two of our study sites, allowing us to assess kelp forest CND across a wide range of environmental conditions. At their peak, reef invertebrates supplied an average of 18.3 ± 3.0 µmol NH4+ m−2 hr−1to kelp forests when sea stars were regionally abundant, but dropped to 3.5 ± 1.0 µmol NH4+ m−2 hr−1following their mass mortality due to disease during a prolonged period of extreme warming. However, a coincident increase in the abundance of the California spiny lobster,Palinurus interupptus(Randall, 1840), likely in response to both reduced fishing and a warmer ocean, compensated for much of the recycled ammonium lost to sea star mortality. Both lobsters and sea stars are widely recognized as key predators that can profoundly influence community structure in benthic marine systems. Our study is the first to demonstrate their importance in nutrient cycling, thus expanding their roles in the ecosystem. Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of warming events, and rising human populations are intensifying fishing pressure in coastal ecosystems worldwide. Our study documents how these projected global changes can drive regime shifts in CND and fundamentally alter a critical ecosystem function.

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  4. Abstract

    This study examines an unprecedented bloom ofEmiliania huxleyialong the California coast during the NE Pacific warm anomaly of 2014–2015. Observations of coccolithophore populations from microscopy and flow cytometry, surface current data derived from high‐frequency radar, and satellite ocean color imagery were used to track the population dynamics of the bloom in the Santa Barbara Channel. Results show a coastal bloom of mostlyE. huxleyithat reached cell concentrations up to 5.7 × 106cells per liter and a maximum spatial extent of 1,220 km2. We speculate that the rare cooccurrence of warm water, high water column stability, and an extensive preceding diatom bloom during the anomaly contributed to the development of this bloom. Flow cytometry measurements provided insight on the phases of bloom development (e.g., growth versus senescence) with calcified cells comprising up to 64% of particles containing chlorophyll a and detached‐coccolith:cell ratios ranging from 10 to >100. Lagrangian particle trajectories estimated during two nonoverlapping 48‐ and 72‐hr periods showed the changes in the surface structure of the bloom due to advection by surface currents and nonconservative biological and physical processes. Time rates of change of particulate inorganic carbon were estimated along particle trajectories, with rates ranging from −4 to 6 μmol·L−1·day−1. The approach presented here is likely to be useful for understanding the evolution of coastal phytoplankton bloom events in a general setting.

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