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Coastal Ocean Temperature Changes May Threaten Food Supply

Changes in coastal ocean temperatures have been much more extreme over the past 10 years than expected. This could especially affect California, which is a major breadbasket for the rest of the United States.

Researchers have also found that temperature determines where key soil microbes can thrive-- microbes that are critical to forming topsoil crusts in arid lands. Scientists predict that in as little as 50 years, global warming may push some of these microbes out of their present stronghold in US deserts, with unknown consequences to soil fertility and erosion.

While there are thousands of microbe species in just one pinch of crust, two cyanobacteri--bacteria capable of photosynthesis- the most common. Without cyanobacteria, the other microbes in the crust could not exist, as every other species depends on them for food and energy.

Should microbe distribution indeed change due to increasing temperatures, scientists do not know what effect that will have on soil fertility and erosion.

These microbes are hundreds of millions of years old and can be found in many places around the globe. Microbiologist Ferran Garcia-Pichel believes this pattern of temperature segregation detected in the US is likely to be similar worldwide.

Climate researcher Hannes Bauman is also concerned about West Coast climate change and says, "In the North Pacific and North Atlantic, there has been warming trend, and changes in coastal ocean temperatures may be much more extreme than global averages imply.."

For example, the South American Pacific coasts have been cooling over the last few decades. To some, these cooling trends may be counterintuitive, but they are consistent with global climate change predictions, such as increases in upwelling (i.e., a process that brings cold, deep ocean water to the coast).

Bauman says, "The world is getting flatter. Coastal waters at high (cold) latitudes warm much faster than at low (warm) latitudes, hence the majority of the world's coastal temperature gradients are getting shallower. This could cause dramatic reorganization of organisms and ecosystems, from small plankton communities to larger fish populations."

The image from Noyonews.net illustrates cold water upwelling along the northern California coast, one of the essential cold water upwellings that are threatened.

In 1998, Whitley Strieber knew little about climate change, but the Master of the Key explained a controversial theory to him that has since become accepted science.


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