Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 27 Issue 02

View Issue TOC
Volume 27, No. 2
Pages 18 - 23


COMMENTARY • A Framework for a Marine Biodiversity Observing Network Within Changing Continental Shelf Seascapes

By Frank E. Muller-Karger , Maria T. Kavanaugh, Enrique Montes , William M. Balch, Mya Breitbart, Francisco P. Chavez, Scott C. Doney , Elizabeth M. Johns, Ricardo M. Letelier, Michael W. Lomas, Heidi M. Sosik , and Angelicque E. White 
Jump to
Citation References Copyright & Usage
First Paragraph

Continental shelves and the waters overlying them support numerous industries as diverse as tourism and recreation, energy extraction, fisheries, transportation, and applications of marine bio-molecules (e.g., agribusiness, food processing, pharmaceuticals). Although these shelf ecosystems exhibit impacts of climate change and increased human use of resources (Halpern et al., 2012; IPCC, 2013, 2014; Melillo et al., 2014), there are currently no standardized metrics for assessing changes in ecological function in the coastal ocean. Here, we argue that it is possible to monitor vital signs of ecosystem function by focusing on the lowest levels of the ocean food web. Establishment of biodiversity, biomass, and primary productivity baselines and continuous evaluation of changes in biological resources in these economically and ecologically valuable regions requires an internationally coordinated monitoring effort that fully integrates natural, social, and economic sciences to jointly identify problems and design solutions. Such an ocean observing network is needed to protect the livelihoods of coastal communities in the context of the goals of the Future Earth program (Mooney et al., 2013) and of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (http://www.ipbes.net). The tools needed to initiate these assessments are available today.


Muller-Karger, F.E., M.T. Kavanaugh, E. Montes, W.M. Balch, M. Breitbart, F.P. Chavez, S.C. Doney, E.M. Johns, R.M. Letelier, M.W. Lomas, H.M. Sosik, and A.E. White. 2014. A framework for a marine biodiversity observing network within changing continental shelf seascapes. Oceanography 27(2):18–23, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2014.56.


Biodiversity Ad Hoc Group. 2010. Attaining an Operational Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (BON) Synthesis Report. Interagency Working Group on Ocean Partnerships, 33 pp., http://www.nopp.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/BON_SynthesisReport.pdf.

Casinia, M., J. Hjelm, J.C. Molinero, J. Lovgren, M. Cardinale, V. Bartolino, A. Belgrano, and G. Kornilovs. 2009. Trophic cascades promote threshold-like shifts in pelagic marine ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106:197–202, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0806649105.

Chelton, D.B., P. Gaube, M.G. Schlax, J.J. Early, and R.M. Samelson. 2011. The influence of nonlinear mesoscale eddies on near-surface oceanic chlorophyll. Science 334:328–332, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1208897.

Cheung, W.W.L., R. Watson, and D. Pauly. 2013. Signature of ocean warming in global fisheries catches. Nature 497:365–368, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature12156.

Church, M.J., M.W. Lomas, and F.E. Muller-Karger. 2013. Sea change: Charting the course for biogeochemical ocean time series research in a new millennium. Deep Sea Research Part II 93:2–15, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsr2.2013.01.035.

Chust, G., J.I. Allen, L. Bopp, C. Schrum, J. Holt, K. Tsiaras, M. Zavatarelli, M. Chifflet, H. Cannaby, I. Dadou, and others. 2014. Biomass changes and trophic amplification of plankton in a warmer ocean. Global Change Biology, https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12562.

Cleland, E.E. 2012. Biodiversity and ecosystem stability. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):14, http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/biodiversity-and-ecosystem-stability-17059965.

Doney, S.C., V.J. Fabry, R.A. Feely, and J.A. Kleypas. 2009. Ocean acidification: The other CO2 problem. Annual Review of Marine Science 1:169–192, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163834.

Ducklow, H.W., S.C. Doney, and D.K. Steinberg. 2009. Contributions of long-term research and time-series observations to marine ecology and biogeochemistry. Annual Review of Marine Science 1:279–302, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163801.

Duffy, J.E., L.A. Amaral-Zettler, D.G. Fautin, G. Paulay, T.A. Rynearson, H.M. Sosik, and J.J. Stachowicz. 2013. Envisioning a Marine Biodiversity Observation Network. BioScience 63:350–361, https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2013.63.5.8.

FAO. 2012. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2012. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 209 pp.

Frank, K.T., B. Petrie, J.S. Choi, and W.C. Leggett. 2005. Trophic cascades in a formerly cod-dominated ecosystem. Science 308:1,621–1,623, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1113075.

Friederike Prowe, A.E., M. Pahlow, S. Dutkiewicz, M. Follows, and A. Oschlies. 2012. Top-down control of marine phytoplankton diversity in a global ecosystem model. Progress in Oceanography 101:1–13, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2011.11.016.

Glantz, M.H., ed. 1992. Climate Variability, Climate Change and Fisheries. Cambridge University Press, 420 pp.

Halpern, B.S., C. Longo, D. Hardy, K.L. McLeod, J.F. Samhouri, S.K. Katona, K. Kleisner, S.E. Lester, J. O’Leary, M. Ranelletti, and others. 2012. An index to assess the health and benefits of the global ocean. Nature 488:615–620, https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11397.

Hay, M.E., and W. Fenical. 1996. Chemical ecology and marine biodiversity: Insights and products from the sea. Oceanography 9(1):10–20, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.1996.21.

Hellmann, J.J., J.E. Byers, B.G. Bierwagen, and J.S. Dukes. 2008. Five potential consequences of climate change for invasive species. Conservation Biology 22(3):534–543, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00951.x.

Hofmann, G.E., J.E. Smith, K.S. Johnson, U. Send, L.A. Levin, F. Micheli, A. Paytan, N.N. Price, B. Peterson, Y. Takeshita, and others. 2011. High-frequency dynamics of ocean pH: A multi-ecosystem comparison. PLoS ONE 6(12):e28983, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0028983.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex, and P.M. Midgley, eds, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1,535 pp.

IPCC. 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Working Group II Contribution to the IPCC 5th Assessment Report: Changes to the Underlying Scientific/Technical Assessment. 

Kavanaugh, M.T., B. Hales, M. Saraceno, Y.H. Spitz, A.E. White, and R.M. Letelier. 2013. Hierarchical and dynamic seascapes: A quantitative framework for scaling pelagic biogeochemistry and ecology. Progress in Oceanography 120:291–304, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pocean.2013.10.013.

Kelble, C.R., D.K. Loomis, S. Lovelace, W.K. Nuttle, P.B. Ortner, P. Fletcher, G.S. Cook, J.J. Lorenz, and J.N. Boyer. 2013. The EBM-DPSER conceptual model: Integrating ecosystem services into the DPSIR framework. PLoS ONE 8(8):e70766, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0070766.

Lodge, D.M., C.R. Turner, C.L. Jerde, M.A. Barnes, L. Chadderton, S.P. Egan, J.L. Feder, A.R. Mahon, and M.E. Pfrender. 2012. Conservation in a cup of water: Estimating biodiversity and population abundance from environmental DNA. Molecular Ecology 21:2,555–2,558, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05600.x.

Lorenzoni, L., and H.M. Benway, eds. 2013. Global Intercomparability in a Changing Ocean: An International Time-Series Methods Workshop. Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, November 28–30, 2012, Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) Program and International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project (IOCCP), 61 pp, http://www.us-ocb.org/publications/TS_Workshop_report_FINAL.pdf.

Melillo, J., T. (T.C.) Richmond, and G.W. Yohe, eds. 2014. Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment. US Global Change Research Program, 841 pp., https://doi.org/10.7930/J0Z31WJ2.

Mimouni, V., L. Ulmann, V. Pasquet, M. Mathieu, L. Picot, G. Bougaran, J.-P. Cadoret, A. Morant-Manceau, and B. Schoefs. 2012. The potential of microalgae for the production of bioactive molecules of pharmaceutical interest. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology 13:2,733–2,750, abstract at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23072388.

Mooney, H.A., A. Duraiappah, and A. Larigauderie. 2013. Evolution of natural and social science interactions in global change research programs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110(suppl. 1):3,665–3,672, https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1107484110.

Mozetič, P., J. Francé, T. Kogovšek, I. Talaber, and A. Malej. 2012. Plankton trends and community changes in a coastal sea (northern Adriatic): Bottom-up vs. top-down control in relation to environmental drivers. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 115:138–148, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2012.02.009.

Muller-Karger, F., M. Roffer, N. Walker, M. Oliver, O. Schofield, M. Abbott, H. Graber, R. Leben, and G. Goni. 2013. Satellite remote sensing in support of an Integrated Ocean Observing System. IEEE Geoscience and Remote Sensing Magazine 1:8–18, https://doi.org/10.1109/MGRS.2013.2289656.

Paerl, H.W., and J. Huisman. 2009. Climate change: A catalyst for global expansion of harmful cyanobacterial blooms. Environmental Microbiology Reports 1:27–37, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1758-2229.2008.00004.x.

Platt, T., C. Fuentes-Yaco, and K. Frank. 2003. Spring algal bloom and larval fish survival. Nature 423:398–399, https://doi.org/10.1038/423398b.

Polovina, J.J., J.P. Dunne, P.A. Woodworth, and E.A. Howell. 2011. Projected expansion of the subtropical biome and contraction of the temperate and equatorial upwelling biomes in the North Pacific under global warming. ICES Journal of Marine Science 68:986–995, https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsq198.

Pomeroy, L.R., P.J. leB. Williams, F. Azam, and J.E. Hobbie. 2007. The microbial loop. Oceanography 20(2):28–33, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2007.45.

Rahel, F.J., and J.D. Olden. 2008. Assessing the effects of climate change on aquatic invasive species. Conservation Biology 22:521–533, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00950.x.

Reygondeau, G., A. Longhurst, E. Martinez, G. Beaugrand, D. Antoine, and O. Maury. 2013. Dynamic biogeochemical provinces in the global ocean. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 27:1,046–1,058, https://doi.org/10.1002/gbc.20089.

Sarmiento, J.L., R. Slater, R. Barber, L. Bopp, S.C. Doney, A.C. Hirst, J. Kleypas, R. Matear, U. Mikolajewicz, P. Monfray, and others. 2004. Response of ocean ecosystems to climate warming. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 18, GB3003, https://doi.org/10.1029/2003GB002134.

Sosik, H.M., and R.J. Olson. 2007. Automated taxonomic classification of phytoplankton sampled with imaging-in-flow cytometry. Limnology and Oceanography: Methods 5:204–216, http://www.whoi.edu/cms/files/Sosik&Olson_LOM2007_35925.pdf.

Taberlet, P., E. Coissac, F. Pompanon, C. Brochmann, and E. Willerslev. 2012. Towards next-generation biodiversity assessment using DNA metabarcoding. Molecular Ecology 21:2,045–2,050, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05470.x.

Talley, L., R. Fine, R. Lumpkin, N. Maximenko, and R. Morrow. 2010. Surface ventilation and circulation. Pp. 38 in Proceedings of OceanObs’09: Sustained Ocean Observations and Information for Society, vol. 1. Venice, Italy, September 21–25, 2009, J. Hall, D.E. Harrison, and D. Stammer, eds, ESA Publication WPP-306, https://doi.org/10.5270/OceanObs09.

Thomsen, P.F., J. Kielgast, L.L. Iversen, P.R. Moller, M. Rasmussen, and E. Willerslev. 2012. Detection of a diverse marine fish fauna using environmental DNA from seawater samples. Plos ONE 7(8):e41732, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0041732.

Copyright & Usage

This is an open access article made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format as long as users cite the materials appropriately, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate the changes that were made to the original content. Images, animations, videos, or other third-party material used in articles are included in the Creative Commons license unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If the material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission directly from the license holder to reproduce the material.