Extreme climate variability destabilizing West Coast ecosystems
Apr 11, 2018 at 3:00pm
Climate is increasingly controlling synchronous ecosystem behavior in which species populations rise and fall together, according to the National Science Foundation-funded study published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Climate variability is of concern given that extreme events, such as prolonged drought or heatwaves, can disproportionately impact biology, reduce resilience and leave a lasting impact. An increase in the synchrony of the climate could expose marine and terrestrial organisms to higher risks of extinction, said study co-author Ivan Arismendi, an aquatic ecologist and assistant professor at Oregon State University.
"There has been a tremendous amount of research on climate change, but almost all of it has been focused on trends in average conditions, such as rising temperatures," Arismendi said. "However, climate is also predicted to become more variable and very little research has addressed this issue. Our study found that extreme variability is synchronizing processes within and among ecosystems at a level not seen in the last 250 years."
The interdisciplinary research team, led by the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, documented that wintertime atmospheric conditions along the west coast of North America, known as North Pacific high, are important to marine, terrestrial, and freshwater ecosystems in California and the southwestern United States. A strong wintertime North Pacific High is associated with winds that are favorable for marine productivity, but also blocks the onshore storm track and leads to drought on land.
For more, read the full article here.