Politics

San Francisco Bay study gives 20-year window into marine life, climate impacts


On a biological scale, 20 years is like the blink of an eye — if not faster.

But for San Francisco marine biology researchers, 20 years is priceless in what it can tell about the changing nature of the bay’s wildlife, especially in the face of a changing climate.

These long-term databases are rare for the region, but the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Tiburon has accomplished this milestone as of this year. The now 20-year-old study by the center’s Marine Invasions Lab has been tracking the presence of invasive and native species, mainly invertebrates, throughout the bay and delta, giving researchers like Andy Chang insights into how extremes such as droughts, heavy storms and warming waters can affect our backyard ecosystems.

“That gives us a good window into what might happen in these communities and possibly others in the future as we’re projected to see more frequent and severe extremes,” said Chang, who started the study and leads the lab.

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Already the researchers have collected data on the shifts in marine life abundance during the recent historic drought and the abnormally warm waters sometimes referred to as “the blob” that disrupted marine ecosystems throughout the Pacific Ocean. With researchers warning of another “blob” appearing, the data could give insights into how this could impact San Francisco Bay. Last time around, the warmer waters caused tunicates — tube- or barrel-shaped invertebrates that siphon the water for food — from San Diego to appear in the bay.

However, Chang said what they observe cannot be automatically correlated to these climatic events. While the center has published studies on how wetter and drier years affect the bay’s invertebrates, more experiments must be performed to say for sure how the warming waters affect it.

“We’re scientists. We really want to nail it down,” he said.

How the data has been collected has been honed through time, Chang said, with the center in partnership with the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories now utilizing the improved DNA-sequencing technology to build genetic databases of the many invertebrates in the bay. At the same time, the researchers are also working to develop advanced methods …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

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