Workshop 2

Coastal upwelling ecosystems as models for interdisciplinary studies of climate and global change

Changes in climate and increasing human pressure are threatening the coastal oceans. This workshop addresses the challenges for coastal oceans in the 21st century, using coastal upwelling ecosystems as models.  Upwelling systems cover less than 3% of the world ocean surface but play a significant role in the climate system, and contribute disproportionately to ocean biological productivity with up to 40% of the reported global fish catch.

Coupled with the vast coastal human populations, these regions play key socio-economic roles. Human pressure on these productive ecosystems and their services is increasing, requiring new and evolving scientific approaches to collect information and use it in management. Coastal upwelling ecosystems are increasingly vulnerable to the multiple effects of ocean acidification, deoxygenation, harvesting of marine resources, and coastal development, with demonstrated changes at the ecosystem level due to the effects of these stressors. The complex four-dimensional nature of coastal upwelling ecosystems challenges the development of system level understanding that is needed to predict the effects of these stressors on marine ecosystems and the human populations that depend on them, at multiple scales more accurately.

The bridge between the natural and human components can potentially be explored in two ways.

  1. Biophysical and chemical research and monitoring provide managers and decision-makers with information on the changing state of the environment and its associated ecosystem services. There is a need for robust and unambiguous ecological bio-indicators that show biological cause and effect across meaningful spatial and temporal scales for both ecological and governance processes. By providing an early-warning signal, indicators allow management organizations to take preventive measures before ecological damage occurs. 
  2. Analysis of social, economic and political ‘drivers of change’ can alert marine researchers and resource managers to potential changes in the stressors that impact coastal upwelling systems, supporting timely actions to understand and address their impacts. Analysis of the governance system likewise presents opportunities to develop policy and management responses that can address both the drivers of change and the societal impacts that result from their effects on upwelling systems. This coupled social-ecological systems approach is well developed in local-level systems, such as community fisheries, rangelands and forests, but is less so at the larger scales of coastal current systems. 

Several projects currently focus on the impacts of a varying and changing climate on these productive ecosystems. CLIVAR (Climate and Ocean: Variability, Predictability and Change), strives to improve simulations of coastal upwelling systems in global climate models where these systems are presently poorly represented. The Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS) project has air-sea fluxes at eastern boundary upwelling and oxygen minimum zone systems as a mid-term strategy. Proposals have been presented to the United Nations Framework on the Convention for Climate Change for coastal upwelling areas as sentinels of climate and global change and pilot programs for adaptation policies. The IMBER Human Dimensions working group has developed a framework for assessing the dynamics of coupled human-natural systems and applied it to several coastal ecosystems, at small and medium-scales. The challenge is to scale these approaches up to larger national and trans-boundary scales of governance.

This workshop aims to facilitate dialogue between, among, and beyond these projects and seeks contributions from the community that integrate across disciplines. The main objectives of the workshop are therefore to:

  1. Determine how integrated and coordinated projects can be developed so that the relative roles of natural climate variability, anthropogenic climate change, broader global change and human responses can be elucidated and predicted. 
  2. Integrate perspectives from a broad range of disciplines, including oceanographers, ecologists, economists, political scientists and others with fervent interests in coastal systems and their dependent human populations.
  3. Prepare a white paper/sythesis paper incorporating novel ideas generated during the sessions. 

Workshop 2 Conveners

  • Eddie Allison (University of Washington, USA)
  • Nina Bednarsek (University of Washington, USA)
  • Francisco Chavez (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, USA)

Keynote speaker

  • William Cheung (University of British Columbia, Canada)