Predicting and Preventing Tipping Points in Marine Ecosystems

Written by on November 1, 2012 in Marine Life
A healthy kelp forest, photographed near San Clemente Island in California.

A healthy kelp forest, photographed near San Clemente Island in California. Photo credit: Ron H. McPeak/UC Regents.

A new study from the University of California, Santa Barbara aims to examine ecological ‘tipping points’ in order to determine how to prevent them.

Scientist at UCSB’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and partners, will collect existing research on marine ecosystem tipping points and conduct studies to identify early warning signs.  They will also work on creating effective management tools that could predict or prevent ecosystem collapse.

“We know that thresholds in marine ecosystems can lead to rapid changes in their ability to support activities and services that people value, but we seldom have information about how human actions are affecting these things –– and how close we might be to those tipping points,” explained Carrie Kappel, associate project scientist and lead principal investigator on the study.

The NCEAS team was awarded US$3.1 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to launch the four-year project, “Ecosystem Thresholds and Indicators for Marine Spatial Planning.”

“We’re looking at how natural ecosystems respond to changes in human pressure, or to climate change, and what the effects are on the human community,” said Ben Halpern, co-principal investigator and director of UCSB’s Center for Marine Assessment and Planning.

“We have an interest in keeping ecosystems healthy and sustainable not just for nature’s sake, but because we, as humans, fundamentally value and depend upon them,” he said.

An urchin barren, pictured, is the result of unchecked population growth among seaurchins, causing destructive and widespread grazing of kelp forests. Photo credit: Ron H. McPeak/UC Regents.

An urchin barren, pictured, is the result of unchecked population growth among seaurchins, causing destructive and widespread grazing of kelp forests. Photo credit: Ron H. McPeak/UC Regents.

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Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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