The subarctic Pacific Ocean is one of the areas considered particularly vulnerable to acidification, which could affect the ocean’s ability to act as a carbon sink. Global warming affects the food webs and biodiversity in marine ecosystems, especially in regions known as oxygen minimum zones where key components of the global carbon cycle take place. Oxygen minimum zones are found between 200 and 1,000 meters below sea level in the subarctic Pacific, the eastern South Pacific Ocean, the northern parts of the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, and off southwestern Africa. As global warming continues, researchers believe the oxygen levels in the oceans will decrease, a change that will extend the boundaries of the oxygen minimum zones and lead to both habitat loss for many marine organisms as well as significant changes to marine ecosystems.
Studies are currently underway to find out how the marine ecosystems cope with these changes and their impacts on the carbon and nitrogen cycles. Researchers plan to study microbial communities involved in carbon and nitrogen cycles that live in the oxygen-poor region of the subarctic Pacific Ocean, particularly in an area that stretches from the coast of British Columbia to the open ocean. Understanding the changing biogeochemical cycles in the subarctic Pacific Ocean could provide North American researchers and legislators who are developing long-term approaches to curb and reduce the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Principal Investigators: Steven Hallam (University of British Columbia
Program: CSP 2009