Wednesday, May 15, 2019

NOAA Researchers Learning More About West Coast Ecosystem

Research scientists at the NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center say they are learning more about great volumes of nutrient-rich water welling up from the deep ocean to fuel great diversity of marine life on the nation’s West Coast.

While upwelling is vital to marine life along the West Coast, until now the tools being used to monitor it hadn’t changed much in almost half a century. Now scientists are employing satellite images, research buoys, ocean models and other ocean monitoring tools that allow them to measure the velocity of the water and amount of nutrients that it delivers. This helps them to better understand the impacts of upwelling on coastal ocean ecosystems.

Michael Jacox, a research scientist at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center, and other researchers from NOAA Fisheries and the University of California at Santa Cruz recently published the new upwelling measurements in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Upwelling occurs along certain coastlines around the world where winds and the Earth’s rotation sweep surface waters offshore, drawing deep, cold and salty water full of nutrients to the surface. These nutrients fuel growth of phytoplankton that form the base of the marine food web, and ultimately nourish the ocean ecosystem of the West Coast.

Researchers studying fisheries or other marine life can use the indices to understand how fish and marine mammals respond to changes in upwelling and nutrients in the ecosystem. The indices are also helping to reveal effects of shifting ocean conditions off the West Coast, which has in recent years seen unusually warm temperatures that affect many species.

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