Innovation Challenge 3: To Advance Understanding of Ecological feedback in the Earth System

Ecological processes participate in the storage and flux of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, thereby affecting future climate. For instance, the oceanic uptake of carbon through the solubility and biological pumps is influenced by ecological processes that
transform carbon and by physical processes that modify stratification. These biological and physical processes are linked, thereby providing the potential for feedbacks. Understanding these dynamics and feedbacks at seasonal, interannual and decadal scales is critical to interpreting and predicting, or projecting, marine
ecological responses to global and local changes. This Innovation Challenge provides important inputs for Grand Challenge II that is focused on improving scenarios, predictions and projections of future states.


Knowledge Gaps

Ecological interactions in global and regional models can significantly alter the results of physical and biogeochemical projections and predictions, and hence subsequent biological and biogeographical responses (e.g., Follows and Dutkiewicz, 2011). 

Knowledge of feedback processes, their amplitude, and potential evolution is needed to appropriately parameterize coupled physicalbiogeochemical-ecological models of the ocean (e.g., Le Quéré et al., 2005). Mechanistic understanding of the feedbacks and the scales over which these operate to control marine ecosystems is integral to the analysis of carbon and other major element cycles and food webs, and in understanding the role of the ocean in the Earth’s climate system

Priority Research Questions

How do ocean ecosystem interactions with other components of the Earth System significantly affect climate processes and how are these interactions affected by change?

What level of complexity is needed to represent these interactions and feedbacks?

What approaches are needed for these
interactions and feedbacks to be modelled and projected?

How are ocean-human system interactions incorporated into Earth System models?