Plenary Session: Challenge of assessing and projecting ecological impacts

Kristy J. Kroeker

University of California Santa Cruz

CO2-driven changes in ocean chemistry and temperature will fundamentally affect organismal physiology, with potentially cascading effects on populations, communities and ecosystems. Interactions among the numerous abiotic and biotic factors that govern ecosystem dynamics, however, limits our ability to easily scale-up the results from studies on component parts of the system to make predictions about community dynamics and ecosystem functions in the future. For example, context is critical for forecasting the ecological effects of ocean change, and studies spanning a wide range of conditions are necessary to aid interpretation of global change experiments. Moreover, the effects of ocean change on individual species will be mediated by the interactions with other species in an ecosystem. Thus, studies are needed in diverse, functioning ecosystems that incorporate species interactions. Addressing the ecological effects of ocean change requires creative methods to study complex and dynamic multi-species assemblages in natural settings and incorporate critical interaction networks. Experimental and observational studies across natural gradients in environmental conditions, as well as mesocosm experiments, have provided important, initial forecasts of ecological changes associated with increased CO2 concentrations, although much is still unknown. Moving forward, the application of ecological theory in ocean change research is essential for guiding the necessary shift towards increasingly complex and nuanced ecological research.