Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) in Northern California Current II

A series of heat model images and a chart showing types of plankton.

Paraeuchaeta spp. copepods along the Newport Hydrographic Line (cross-shelf) during nighttime (A) and daytime (B) in September 2020. The Shannon Diversity Index based on all ISIIS taxa during nighttime (C) and daytime (D) ranged from 0.3 to 1.6. (E). Diversity of images from ISIIS.


Marine Biodiversity Observation Network in the Northern California Current II

Dynamic, multiscale assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem function to support emerging science and management needs


PIs: Maria Kavanaugh, Robert Cowen, Su Sponaugle, Laurie Juranek, Jennifer Fisher

Funding Source: NASA ONR

The Northern California Current (NCC) is a dynamic, highly productive region that exhibits strong physical and ecosystem variability on seasonal, interannual and decadal time scales. Driven by seasonal upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water, plankton blooms in the NCC fuel productive offshore and nearshore fisheries and drawdown of atmospheric CO2 and subsequent export of particulate carbon. In recent years, changing ocean conditions have resulted in shifts in plankton community composition with negative impacts on some fisheries through poor food quality and the rise of harmful algal blooms. Warm, oligotrophic waters associated with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, El Nino, as well as the 2014-16 North Pacific Marine Heatwave led to changes in plankton abundance and community composition, poor juvenile salmon survivorship, and subsequent returns two years later, delayed or closed fisheries, and economic losses to the commercial salmon and Dungeness industries alone exceeding $100M.

The US MBON has been extended into the Northern California Current (NCC), a region that presents unique oceanographic, ecological, and social interactions with marine biodiversity. Building on successful field and synthesis activities conducted during the pandemic, we will advance the science of MBON through additional technologies and research, and create a testbed in the Pacific Northwest where elements of the US and Global MBONs can be harmonized.

This will be achieved through the following project goals:

  1. Fully integrate MBON NCC US;
  2. Co-create ecosystem indicators derived from observations;
  3. Expand taxonomic resolution of in situ measurements and technological capacity of the MBON and continue sampling of multiple trophic levels and size classes using a combination of: hyperspectral bio-optics, imaging flow cytometer (Cytobot), high-resolution in situ ichthyoplankton imaging (ISIIS), the addition of broad size spectrum laser diffraction, expanded environmental DNA, repeated observations of ocean chemistry, zooplankton, and forage species as part of large -scale NOAA surveys and IFCB, hyperspectral bio-optics, eDNA on bi-weekly NH Line surveys;
  4. Conduct novel ecosystem science. We plan to quantify community composition metrics to multiscale ecosystem functioning including specific growth, grazing, and net ecosystem metabolism. We will evaluate how environmental drivers (e.g., temperature, ocean chemistry, upwelling, shelf width, climate variability) impact biodiversity, size spectra, and community indicators; and how together they may affect carbon export, a regionally important ecosystem function; and
  5. Contribute to a community of Ecological Data Science stewardship.

Benefits: We anticipate several benefits to science, management, and diverse communities. Specifically, we will:

  1. Provide biological and environmental data collected by multiple programs in an integrated synthesis that informs scientists, resource managers, educators, and all community partners about the state of multitrophic level diversity in the Northern California Current and how it is changing;
  2. Provide codeveloped near-real-time indicators of plankton and nekton community structure to support local management needs for tribes, and regional needs for Integrated Ecosystem Assessment and improved stock assessments;
  3. Contribute to best practices and mechanisms to share data, experiences, knowledge, and protocols to understand species and the status and trends of plankton and the ecosystem services they provide; and
  4. Share innovative technologies, pipelines, and algorithms developed for the observation of plankton between academia, state and federal agencies, and community partners.