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Researchers Get Grant to Examine Environmental Changes Off Oregon, Washington, California Coasts

Published 11/02/22 at 7:59 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Researchers Get Grant to Examine Environmental Changes Off Oregon, Washington, California Coasts

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(Newport, Oregon) – NOAA ( National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has awarded Oregon State University and its researchers over $4 million to look into how climate change is affecting marine ecosystems off the Oregon coast, Washington coast and the California shorelines. (Photo of Yachats, Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

Two species of marine creatures in the region will be the focus: krill and Dungeness crab. Both are considered key species for a variety of reasons, and both are susceptible to greater stressors due to ocean acidification, conditions of low oxygen (hypoxia), heatwaves within the marine environment, rising ocean temperatures and algal blooms. All of these are on the increase already within the oceans of the Washington coast and Oregon coast because of climate change.

Dungess crab is considered the most valuable species in the seas off the west coast, and it plays a significant role in indigenous cultures and other coastal communities as an industry. Krill are the tiny crustaceans that make up the ocean's food chain, and they are a standard by which the health of other marine creatures is measured.

Crab photo courtesy Hatfield Marine Science Center

Heading up much of the project is Francis Chan, a researcher out of the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. He said the primary goals are to better understand how these various stressors are impacting the two species, and in turn help tribal and fisheries officials manage the coming changes.

“We know that the climate is changing, and it is impacting our marine resources,” Chan said. “This work is all about how we can best position the Dungeness crab fishery to be more resilient to these changes. At the conclusion of this work, we hope to have answers to help fishermen and managers get to a climate-ready fishery.”

Some existing data will be used in the research, but scientists will be conducting new laboratory experiments, developing climate and ocean models, and fisheries management evaluation techniques. Expeditions using undersea autonomous vehicles will also be utilized.

Researchers say that stressor elements will be causing some cascading effects in marine ecosystems. How past indigenous peoples dealt with such changes will be a part of this research as well. It's what researchers in the project have called Indigenous science, a deeper look into past generations' practices and relationships to environmental functions and changes.

Tribal fishers also will contribute to the collection of scientific data on ocean conditions in their areas. The research team also will work closely with Tribal and commercial fishery leaders through establishment of a management advisory board.

The project is funded by NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the NOAA Climate Program Office, NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program, and the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Office, in partnership with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Additional OSU researchers on the project are Maria Kavanaugh of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; Bob Cowen, Su Sponaugle and Moritz Schmid of Hatfield Marine Science Center; and Nina Bednarsek of the Cooperative Institute for Marine Ecosystem and Resources Studies.

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