Climate-change stressors interact in the oceans

I provided insights, evaluation, and a summary of current research to help an ocean non-profit fortify their strategic response to a rapidly change world. The science team wanted a concise review of the most severe ocean stressors, due to climate change, and their interactions. I summarized the impacts of ocean warming, decreased oxygen concentrations, and ocean acidification – assessing the ways in which these stressors influence each other, and the probabilities that they could, singly or in combination, tip the ocean’s physical, biological, and chemical systems into disarray. I produced an annotated bibliography, synthesized the literature and emerging themes, and recommended leading experts based on my research. With a quick turnaround time, I provided in-depth information and synthetic understanding of the scientific basis of ocean climate change to support the non-profit’s emerging strategy.

Questions we're asking

  1. What are the primary stressors imposed on the oceans by climate change? What do we currently know and not know about how they interact with each other?
  2. How do stressors such as warming, deoxygenation, and acidification interact with non-climate impacts such as nutrient pollution and overfishing?
  3. How and to what extent might such interactions threaten ocean structure and function?

Problems we're solving

International climate negotiations hardly touch on oceans, which are the major mediator of climate-change impacts – taking up 93% of the heat and 28% of the carbon dioxide that fossil-fuel burning has added to the atmosphere, and protecting us from dangerous climate disruption. Understanding what we do and don’t know about interactions between stressors – when the consequences of multi-stressor interactions might be worse than anything we could predict from single stressors – could galvanize greater action on climate mitigation and a greater recognition of both the life-supporting role of the oceans and the risks they face from climate change.

Photo credit: Cindi Stephan, Two Irises, 2016 California