Ed Ricketts Memorial Lecture
James P. Barry
Senior Scientist, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Changing the World One Breath at a Time: Humans, Climate, and Ocean Ecosystems
Science and technology have improved human health and promoted the rapid growth of world population, while simultaneously accelerating our exploitation of fossil fuels to provide energy for modern life. This has led to a massive increase in emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and serious concern for our role in ongoing climate change. Rare 20 years ago, links between global warming and changes in terrestrial and marine ecosystems are now commonplace. Less widely known is the role played by the oceans in the climate system, the effects of CO2 emissions on ocean chemistry, and their potential consequences for ocean ecosystems. In only the past few years a new term, "ocean acidification" has been coined to describe the rapid increase in ocean acidity caused by the influx of waste CO2 from the atmosphere. Projections of future ocean chemistry driven by our rapidly rising CO2 emissions are startling, with increases in ocean acidity unseen for many millions of years. How will this event affect the health of ocean ecosystems? Oceanographers are now attempting to identify the possible consequences of changing ocean conditions on phytoplankton productivity, coral reef health, deep-sea animals, and marine food chains. The fossil record of analogous events in Earth's geologic history suggests that the future ocean ecosystems could be quite different. Should we care?
About James Barry
With degrees in biology, zoology and biological oceanography, James Barry is a Senior Scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), a non-profit research institute in Moss Landing, California. As an oceanographer and marine ecologist, Barry has pursued a number of research interests at MBARI, supported mainly through the use of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) diving in the deep waters off Central California. His research program focuses principally on the biology and ecology of marine animals, with research themes that have spanned various topics, such as; 1) chemosynthetic biological communities in the eastern Pacific and Japan, 2) benthic-pelagic coupling in polar and temperate continental shelf and slope habitats, and 3) the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on marine ecosystems. For the past several years, Barry's research has centered on studies of the consequences of rising ocean acidity on marine organisms, from either the direct injection of waste CO2 into the deep-sea, or by the passive influx of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.