Farallon Institute Projects
Sonoma County Hydrokinetic Energy Project
The Sonoma County Water Agency received permits from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to further explore wave energy develop in coastal waters off Sonoma County. Farallon Institute scientists are serving on an advisory panel to help ensure ecological integrity of coastal habitats potentially affected by these activities.
Potential Socio-economic and Environmental Effects of Developing Wave Energy in Coastal California
Using tides, winds, and waves to produce electricity appears to be part of the solution for clean, renewable energy. Along the west coast of the United States, wave energy technology development is proceeding at a rapid pace. In California, with support from the California Energy Commission, California Ocean Protection Council, and California Coastal Conservancy, scientists from H.T. Harvey and Associates (lead organization), Farallon Institute, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, and Humboldt State University evaluated potential ecological and socio-economic impacts of wave energy development on the environment and coastal communities. The final report suggests important ecological considerations to the development and implementation of wave energy 'parks'.
Climate Change and Marine Ecosystems
Staff and Board Scientists of the Farallon Institute, colleagues and collaborators place emphasis on building a deeper understanding of the relationships between climate change and change in marine ecosystems. Marine climate impacts have been poorly quantified and represented in the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports. A primary goal of the Farallon Institute, therefore, is to obtain data and provide up-to-date information and assessments of coupled climate-ecosystem responses for inclusion in state, federal and international policy debates and statements.
Seabirds and Climate Change
In a new project with collaborators from Pacific Rim Conservation and Oregon State University, supported by Region 1 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, scientists from Farallon Institute will prepare an update of the Pacific Region Seabird Conservation Plan to address the effects of climate change on Pacific seabird species. This update will provide a synthesis of available information on existing and potential effects of climate change on seabirds and seabird habitats, such as impacts of sea level rise, changes in air and sea temperature, changes in circulation and currents and upwelling, seabird food webs, etc. for the California Current System (Washington, Oregon, and California) and Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Islands. Sections will include: (1) a review Global and Regional Climate Models (GCM and RCM) for possible application to the USFWS regions of interest, (2) an overview of observed trends in relevant climatic (atmospheric and oceanographic) parameters, (3) a chapter on observed or probable responses of California Current System seabirds, (4) a chapter on observed or probable responses of Hawaii/U.S. Pacific Islands seabirds, and (5) recommended management actions to mitigate climate change impacts for 58 species listed in the original conservation plan. The draft report will be completed by 31 March 2011.
Tackling Ecological Complexity and Climate Change: Matches and Mismatches in the Seasonal Cycle of California’s Marine Flora and Fauna
Climate change has been shown to be changing the timing of annual events in species’ life cycles, such as the egg-laying dates of seabirds or the spawning dates of fish, but there is no reason to assume that species of different trophic levels will change at the same rate. Different responses in timing could lead to de-coupling of co-evolved predator-prey/trophic (feeding) relationships. Farallon Institute scientists hypothesize that this could explain recent reproductive failures of seabirds and poor recruitment of fish (salmon) in central-northern California. This collaborative, interdisciplinary project funded by the California Ocean Protection Council and California Sea Grant includes researchers from NOAA’s Environmental Research Division (Drs. Steven Bograd and Isaac Schroeder), Southwest Fisheries Science Center (Drs. Steven Ralson, Brian Wells, and John Field), Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center (Dr. Robert Suryan), UC Berkeley (Dr. Zack Powell and PhD candidate Jeff Dorman), and Old Dominion University (Dr. Chester Grosch). As part of this project, Dorman is developing a coupled ROMS-life history model on the oceanographic factors affecting the abundance and availability to predators of the Euphausiid crustacean (a.k.a. "krill") Euphausia pacifica. With NOAA-NMFS fisheries scientists, Dr. Jarrod Santora, Farallon Institute post-doctoral research associate, is heading-up studies of krill-krill predator spatial organization and spatial "match or mismatch". Peer-reviewed publications resulting from this effort to date include Bograd et al. 2009 (on the phenology of upwelling along the U.S. west coast), Schroeder et al. 2009 (on the relationships between winds, ocean temperatures, and seabird timing of breeding and productivity), and Sydeman et al. 2009 (a synthesis of seabird responses to climate change in the California Current).
Importance of Wintertime Upwelling to Ecosystem Dynamics in the California Current
Climate change is expected to alter the amplitude and timing of upwelling. This project, related to the Match-Mismatch Project in many ways, is focused on investigating how upwelling during the winter months may "pre-condition" the ecosystem which then can lead to either productive or unproductive years for fish (rockfish, salmon) and seabirds. In this interdisciplinary project, we will couple research on wintertime upwelling and physical oceanography (e.g., degree of stratification) with biological indicators of productivity to provide a holistic ecosystem perspective. Supported by NOAA’s Fisheries and the Environment Program, and the National Science Foundation’s Biological Oceanography Program, this is a collaborative effort of Farallon Institute, Oregon State University (Dr. Bryan Black), NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center and the Environmental Research Division of NOAA. Scientists will integrate this information with rockfish stock assessments and developing Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (see below).
Krill of the California Current, Gulf of Alaska, and Antarctic Peninsula Spatial Organization Under a Warming Ocean Climate
Euphausiid crustacean ("krill") spatial organization is not well known. In this project we are investigating the abundance, distribution, and spatial organization of krill across ecosystems, from the Antarctic to the North Pacific. Results will highlight the importance of krill spatial organization to understanding predator and ecosystem dynamics in sub-arctic to arctic shelf ecosystems.
Seabird Sentinels of Marine Climate Change
Due to their existence at the boundary of the atmosphere and the ocean (i.e., their reliance on surface and near-surface ocean habitats for sustenance) seabirds are the most conspicuous of all marine organisms. In most systems, seabirds have also been substantially less exploited than other upper level predators such as fish and mammals. Owing to these and other characteristics, for almost 40 years seabirds have been put forth as reliable ecological indicators of environmental change and change in lower trophic level species. In this project we are investigating the abundance, distribution, and spatial organization of krill across ecosystems, from the Antarctic to the North Pacific. Results will highlight the importance of krill spatial organization to understanding predator and ecosystem dynamics in sub-arctic to arctic shelf ecosystems.
Marine Ecosystem Management
An Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) for the California Current
With support from the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS), and in collaboration with NOAA-ERD and a plethora of other marine scientists along the west coast of the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, we are developing Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEA) for the California Current Ecosystem (CCE).
What is an IEA?An Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) is a dynamic, decision-support tool for management of living marine resources. Our specific objectives include: (1) to compile datasets representative of key ecosystem processes and outcomes from climate (e.g., physical oceanography, atmospheric, and weather) to patterns and statistics of human use, (2) to evaluate data time series and provide suites of key indicators of ecosystem state (status), and propose reference levels for safe and for desired states of the ecosystem, (3) to integrate and synthesize time series data to link important ecological outcomes to changes from climate and human use drivers (i.e., forecasting), (4) to report on current conditions and trends in key indicators of physical, biological and human uses, (5) to forecast relationships between state indicators and pressure indicators to inform management. Products to date include:
Module 1: Select Time Series of Ecosystem State
In Module 1, we present records (time-series) of key biological organisms, describe these data in the context of recent and long-term changes in the ecosystem, identify apparent gaps in knowledge, and outline possible future directions for CCLME IEA development. We emphasize that this initial [biological indicator] approach to development of a CCLME IEA should be complemented by other approaches (e.g., ecosystem modeling) and that the indicators shown herein are not comprehensive. Nonetheless, we suggest that the species and parameters selected are useful for understanding the population biology of species of management concern, and are therefore of great value to state and federal authorities in the CCE.
Module 2: Climate, Trends and Variability in System State
In Module 2 of the Integrated Ecosystem Assessment, we present a trend analysis on select physical and biological indicators of ecosystem state, including indicators of atmospheric, oceanographic and biological conditions. We evaluate the importance of these trends relative to the 2007 salmon stock collapses and fisheries closures throughout the CCLME. In this report, we will test the hypothesis that trends in physical and biological attributes of the California Current vary by latitude. This hypothesis has been examined by others, but not in a comprehensive "ecosystem-wide" manner. To test this hypothesis we have compiled 123 time series on atmospheric, oceanographic and biological conditions at various latitudes in the California Current, and have evaluated each series for trends in a measure of central tendency (mean) and variability (variance).
The Integrated Marine Ecological Database (IMED)
Datasets gathered and used in the IEA are stored in the IMED. This comprehensive database, originally called the California Current Integrated Ecological Database (CCIED), will soon be available to the public online. Click here for a poster describing the IMED and some of its uses.
"Hotspots" of Productivity in the Open Ocean: Implications for Trophic Transfer and Protection of Ecosystem Function
Understanding variation in biological activity over large scales is critical for an ecosystem-based approach to management, especially marine spatial planning. In this project we are using satellite remotely-sensed data of chlorophyll-a (chl a) concentrations and information on marine bird distributions at sea in one region to test an hypothesis of potential "hotspots" of co-varying primary productivity and consumer densities within the California Current. We define "hotspots" based on the persistence of elevated values of chl a and marine bird density in space and time. We are modeling chl a "hotspots" in relation to seafloor and coastal topographies and contours of seabird densities in relation to chl a concentrations. Satellite imagery provides a holistic perspective on productivity in this large marine ecosystem which is not available by other means, and provides key information on spatial variability in ecosystem properties of significance to upper trophic level species of management and conservation concern. Our ecosystem-wide analyses will reveal open ocean "hotspots" within the California Current that appear to be of special biological significance, warrant future research and monitoring, and possible protection to maintain and/or enhance ecosystem functions, presumably feeding interactions of top predators.
Krill of the California Current: Predictive Habitat Modeling for Ecosystem Protection
With respect to ecosystem-based management and protection (e.g., design of marine protected areas), it is important to understand, and if possible predict, the spatial distribution of key mid trophic level prey species. Krill are an integral component of the California Current Ecosystem (CCE) that support commercially valuable as well as protected species. It has been postulated that krill have affinities for particular bathymetric and hydrographic habitats (i.e. canyons, isobaths, fronts), but it is unclear how these factors collectively influence krill aggregations. We surveyed the spatial distribution of krill using hydroacoustics in central-northern California and modeled their distribution in relation to bathymetric slope, distance from shelf break/canyon heads and fronts, phytoplankton/chl-a persistence, and sea-surface height anomalies (eddy structures). The model outputs spatially explicit probability density functions. Using this information, we upscale the model to regions of the northern California Current not sampled by our field program. Application of these results to ecosystem protection and the design of potential offshore marine protected areas for this system will be discussed.
Salmon Ecology and Management
The North Coast Program
The North Coast Program is designed to measure and assess physical, chemical, and biological oceanographic properties, ecosystem, and food web conditions known to affect salmonid survival at sea. To cover the extensive marine habitats of northern California salmonids, bi-monthly small vessel sampling of plankton on four transects, from Bodega Bay in the south to Newport, Oregon in the north, will be used to quantify food web variability and change. Sampling will include:
- station-based net (ring and Bongo nets, 0.20mm-0.25mm and 0.30mm-0.35mm, respectively) sampling and analysis of crustacean (i.e., copepod, euphausiid, decapod and amphipod) and larval fish biodiversity (number of taxa), biomass, and stage/size,
- hydrographic measurements that are known to affect zooplankton and larval fish distribution and abundance, hence salmonid survival
- prey ”patchiness”, particularly that of euphausiid crustaceans (”krill”) using scientific echosounders
- surveys of salmonid predators (seabirds, pinnipeds, and cetaceans)
Surveys of prey patches of euphausiid crustaceans and forage fish will be coordinated (at great cost savings) with ongoing surveys in the region, particularly the NOAA-NMFS-SWFSC Juvenile Rockfish Ecosystem Survey and California Current Ecosystem/Pacific Coast Ocean Observing System (PaCOOS) surveys (NOAA-NMFS-NWFSC). These surveys are planned in perpetuity, and provide platforms for obtaining information that would be difficult and prohibitively expensive to obtain directly as part of the line-based sampling.
To measure ocean climate and place ecosystem (food web) observations and considerations in an oceanographic context, a variety of sampling techniques will be used including remote sensing (from satellites and the State’s HF radar coastal currents mapping system), mooring data, new technology.
A cost-effective and scientific enhancement to hydrographic sampling on the lines will be the use of Spray Gliders. This new technology will allow for measurements of the water column (temperature, salinity, and a proxy for primary productivity) in all weather conditions and to sample salmon habitat inbetween the lines. This will facilitate rigorous computations to be made of environment changes (e.g. ocean warming, upwelling, stratification, mixed layer depth) that are known to affect the ecosystem and salmonid food webs.
Utilizing Ecosystem Information to Improve the Decision Support System for Central California Salmon
Conventional wisdom once suggested that ecological conditions in the riverine environments that support salmon spawning determine variability in population abundance at return. More recently, however, it has been recognized and widely accepted that the ocean plays a critical role in determining salmon returns and fisheries catch (Mantua et al. 1997). In particular, the abundance of food (e.g., zooplankton) during the initial months of ocean life, when the salmon are small and most susceptible to predation, affects the at-sea survival of salmon as they first migrate to the sea and ultimately changes in populations years later when cohorts return to spawn. In this new project, supported by NASA-ROSES, we will integrate numerical and empirical-statistical modeling approaches (Wells et al. 2008) to enhance our knowledge of salmon survival at sea and improve abilities to forecast salmon population dynamics. The poor returns of Sacramento River fall run chinook salmon in 2007 and 2008, and resulting fisheries closures in 2008-present can be related to a period of anomalous ocean conditions in the California Current which began in 2004 and continued at least through 2006.