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Linking a Changing Climate to Coastal Ecosystems

Increasingly acidic ocean waters can slow growth, or even dissolve corals, oysters, and other shell-building species. We are helping shellfish managers and industry partners understand how predicted pH changes will affect shellfish in New England.

We link climate change to coasts by studying how regional climate and weather affect abundance, distribution, and production of coastal animals and ecosystems.

Our scenario models, maps, and forecasts predict the extent and types of coastal, climate-related impacts. We tease out influences of weather systems and events (hurricanes, winter storms, cold snaps) on ecosystem structure and productivity. Then we predict and forecast how water quality, temperature, and light availability in coastal areas and habitats will change under various future climate scenarios. Interdisciplinary, multi-year sponsored research investigates how coastal ecosystems respond to climate variability and change.

A new stormwater runoff modeling system calculates runoff volumes and rates based on changing precipitation patterns and coastal development. Community leaders, research scientists, and others use the model to identify which areas are likely to face increased flooding and water contamination.

We support research on the ways ocean acidification changes coastal food webs and impacts economically important resources. Increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has been recognized as leading to "acidification" of the oceans. Shellfish and corals rely on calcium carbonate to form their shells and hard structures, and as the ocean becomes more acidic, it becomes harder for these species to grow and deposit new shell material. Fish can also be affected, either indirectly through changes in their prey species or through direct effects on their biology.