Selected processes that are intensified or unique to continental-margin ecosystems.

Enlarge Image

Selected processes that are intensified or unique to continental-margin ecosystems.  (Figure developed from CoOP?s Coastal Benthic Exchange Dynamics (CBED) Workshop; designed by A. Boyette, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography)

Coastal Ocean Dynamics and Ecosystems

Understanding the spatial and temporal complexity of the coastal ocean is a long-standing challenge. Quantifying the interactions between atmospheric and terrestrial forcing, and coupled physical, chemical, and biological processes, is critical to elucidating the role of coastal margins in the global carbon cycle, and developing strategies for managing coastal resources in a changing climate.

Measurements must be taken across disciplines, as physical forces induce biological and chemical effects, which in turn mediate other (sometimes severe) biological changes, in some cases feeding back into physical changes. Comprehensive sensing systems must be collocated and interoperable to enable studies across different science domains and observing regimes. Multiple science communities must likewise interact to provide a coherent, integrated view of the results, and this can only be fully enabled with a system like the OOI that has been designed for full engagement of the broader community.

Examples of Key Scientific Questions

  • How are benthic and water-column habitats being impacted by climate change? By human activies near the coast?
  • What controls the transport of carbon, nutrients and plankton in the coastal ocean?
  • How, and to what extent, are nutrients exchanged between the continental shelf and the open ocean?
  • How do shelf/slope exchange processes control the physics, chemistry, and biology of continental shelves?
  • How are wind-driven upwelling, circulation, and biological responses in the coastal zone affected by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, water mass intrusions, and inter-decadal variability?
  • What are the dynamics of hypoxia on continental shelves?
  • What conditions trigger harmful algal blooms and other shifts in species composition?