SPR 11 course: Climatic Effects on Marine Ecosystems

Fish/Envir 330   Climate Change Impacts on Marine Ecosystems

Instructor: Nate Mantua

Course website: http://courses.washington.edu/fish330/

Links the physics of climate to marine ecosystem processes, exploring both observed climate impacts from the past and projected ecosystem changes due to human-caused climate change in the future. Case studies include polar, sub-artic, temperate, tropical and upwelling ecosystems, and ocean-acidification and its projected impacts. Required: high school or college physics and algebra with a basic understanding of Newton’s Laws and the ability to comprehend and construct vector diagrams.

This course provides an in-depth introduction to the role of large-scale to local-scale climate processes as agents of change and structure in marine ecosystems. Students will explore the fundamental physical processes linking changes in the ocean with changes in ecosystems. Once a foundation for understanding the biophysical impacts of climate variations is set, lectures will focus on the impacts of large-scale patterns of climate variability and climate change–including the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, and human-caused global warming–on marine ecosystems. While the primary focus of the course will be climate impacts on ecosystems, students will also learn the basics of human-caused ocean acidification and its projected impacts on marine ecosystems. Case studies focused on tropical, temperate, upwelling, sub-arctic, and polar marine ecosystems will allow students to apply their understanding for fundamental processes of biophysical interactions to present-day concerns about future climate change impacts on marine ecosystems. Daily ecology vignettes will present a 5 -10 minute overview of the life history of a different marine animal so that by the end of the quarter students will have a collection of material describing a range of habitat requirements and sensitivities for different species that will enrich their understanding of the ecosystem case studies.