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The Anthropocene Sea: Effects of Global Change on the Functioning of the Future Ocean

Michael Beman, PhD, UC Merced
Aug 01, 2013 from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (America/Los_Angeles / UTC-700)
1130 K Street, Room LL3
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Human activities have fundamentally altered the chemistry of the atmosphere and ocean, ultimately pushing our planet into a new geological period known as the ‘Anthropocene.’  While human-driven increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations and their strong effects on climate are well-known, 25-33% of human-generated CO2 dissolves in the ocean.   Here CO2 forms an acid and reduces pH—a process known as ‘ocean acidification’—and ocean pH is projected to decline by 0.3-0.4 units by the end of the century.   pH is fundamental for ocean chemistry and ocean organisms, and the wide-ranging effects of ocean acidification include reduced calcification in corals, shellfish, and phytoplankton; altered physiology in fish and other animals; and changes in ocean chemical cycles.  At the same time, over 80% of the heat trapped by CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans.  By warming the surface ocean, this has altered ocean circulation and chemistry and expanded regions with extremely low oxygen concentrations.  The few organisms present in these waters are microbes capable of thriving under anaerobic conditions, and changes in their community structure and activity may lead to multiple feedbacks—including altered nutrient availability, increased greenhouse gas fluxes, and changes in food webs.  This talk will review the science behind these changes, and explore their implications for the functioning of the future ocean.  I will focus on California’s coastal waters, which are experiencing rapid ocean acidification and oxygen loss, and where the collective effects of the changes are challenging to predict.

The overarching goal of Mike’s research program is to develop a predictive understanding of microbial ecology and biogeochemistry in the ‘Anthropocene Sea.' His research sits at the interface of microbial ecology, biogeochemistry, and global change science, and he works worldwide in reefs and estuaries, marine lakes and mountain lakes, and the open ocean. Michael BeemanHe focuses on the responses of microbial communities, and the processes mediated by these communities, to environmental change—including climate change, ocean acidification, ocean deoxygenation, and atmospheric nitrogen deposition.

Mike received a B.S. from Yale University and a Ph.D. from Stanford in Geological and Environmental Sciences; before joining the UC Merced faculty in 2009, he was a postdoc in Marine Environmental Biology at USC, a lecturer at UCLA, and an Assistant Researcher at the University of Hawai’i. He is a member of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute and the Environmental Systems and Quantitative and Systems Biology graduate groups, and teaches classes in Biology, Environmental Systems, and Earth Systems Science.

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