California-Benguela Joint Investigation (CalBenJI)


CalBenJI is interdisciplinary collaboration on climate change and marine ecosystems research between scientists in the U.S., South Africa, and Namibia.  Read more on the CalBenJI website.

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 (below), focused on investigating how upwelling during the winter months "pre-conditions" the ecosystem which then can lead to either productive or unproductive years for fish (rockfish, salmon) and seabirds. In this interdisciplinary project, we coupled research on wintertime upwelling and physical oceanography 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 Biological Oceanography Program, this was a collaborative effort of Farallon Institute, Oregon State University (Dr. Bryan Black, previous position), 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).

History and future of coastal upwelling modes and biological responses in the California Current


Climate variability on multiple temporal scales is increasingly recognized as a major factor influencing the structure, functioning, and productivity of the California Current Ecosystem (CCE). Despite many long-term and integrative studies, a detailed understanding of climatic impacts on upwelling and biological processes is still lacking, compromising our ability to assess important concepts such as ecosystem "health" and "resilience". In this project sponsored by the National Science Foundation Biological Oceanography program, we tested the hypothesis that seasonal upwelling modes are forced by contrasting atmospheric-oceanographic processes, exhibit different patterns of low- and high-frequency variability, and will be differentially impacted by global climate change, with corresponding impacts on biology. To address this hypothesis we took a three-tiered approach focusing on the past, present, and future of upwelling in the CCE. First, for the past, tree-ring data co-varies with fish growth and seabird reproductive success and all are similarly sensitive to a driver of winter upwelling, the Northern Oscillation Index (NOI). Therefore, we used tree rings to reconstruct winter climate variability. Our reconstruction indicates that variability in upwelling has increased over the instrumental record, but nonetheless remains within the range of natural variability (Black et al. 2014; Bryan Black, University of Texas).

Second, for the present, we examined the responses of a suite of species to seasonal modes of upwelling, including Pacific sardine (recruitment), black rockfish (growth), rhinoceros auklet and Brandt's cormorant (survival), and coho salmon (survival). To conduct this work, we integrated winds and temperatures from local buoy data to better capture climate variability on finer timescales than we had in the past (Garcia-Reyes et al. 2013). Third, for the future, we investigated seasonal upwelling modes in relation to various climate-change scenarios using IPCC-class global climate models (GCM; Ryan Rykaczewski, University of South Carolina, Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison).

Overall, this study is of significance because it provided information about the past variability, current causal forces, and potential future changes in upwelling as well as its biological consequences in the California Current. In addition to the basic intellectual merits of our study, we have contributed results to state, national, and international policy-makers, including the IPCC's Assessment Report 5 (AR5), Chapter 30.

Tackling ecological complexity and climate change: Matches and mismatches in the seasonal cycle of California's marine flora and fauna


Climate change may change the timing of annual events in species' life cycles, such as the egg-laying dates of seabirds or 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 uncoupling of predator-prey trophic relationships.  Farallon Institute scientists hypothesized that this could explain recent reproductive failures of seabirds and poor recruitment of fish (salmon) in central-northern California during 2005-2007.  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 Ralston, Brian Wells, and John Field), Oregon State University Hatfield Marine Science Center (Dr. Robert Suryan), UC Berkeley (Drs. Zack Powell and Jeff Dorman), and Old Dominion University (Dr. Chester Grosch).  As part of this project, Dorman and Powell developed a novel model on the oceanographic factors affecting the abundance and availability of the euphausiid Euphausia pacifica.  With NOAA-NMFS fisheries scientists, Dr. Jarrod Santora led studies of krill-krill predator spatial organization and spatial "match or mismatch".  Peer-reviewed publications resulting from this effort include Bograd et al. 2009 (phenology of upwelling along the U.S. west coast), Schroeder et al. 2009 (relationships between winds, ocean temperatures, and seabird timing of breeding and productivity), and Sydeman et al. 2009 (synthesis of seabird responses to climate change in the California Current).