Helmuth Lab

Global Patterns of Physiological Stresses in Coastal Organisms: Ecological Forecasting of Biological Responses to Climate Change

Funded by: NASA

PI: Brian Helmuth

Co-PIs: David Wethey, Jerry Hilbish, Venkat Lakshmi, Sarah Woodin

The goal of our proposed research is to mechanistically predict the effects of climate change on biodiversity in the coastal zone using NASA technology. Specifically, we will provide a toolset by which NASA remote sensing technology will be used to predict patterns of body temperature, and thus changes in patterns of physiological stress, mortality, biodiversity, population abundance, and species range boundaries. We will explore the limits of such applications over a range of temporal and spatial scales by hindcasting patterns of physiological stress, and will compare these maps against new surveys and existing databases of measured shifts in biodiversity and species range boundaries. In addition, we will incorporate impacts on organismal performance into models that apply throughout the geographic range of species. This will be done by linking body temperatures to models that predict physiological and ecological performance under sublethal conditions. This allows an unprecedented opportunity to forecast changes in physiological and ecological performance within the current and future geographic ranges of the major constituents of coastal marine ecosystems. We will specifically focus on mussels, which serve as ecosystem engineers and thus drive biodiversity in coastal zones worldwide. One target species is an aggressive invasive, and has been shown to cause major ecological changes in intertidal ecosystems. This project is thus intimately linked with all three major objectives of the 2010 Biodiversity Target of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and will provide tools that can be co-opted to other ecosystems as a mechanism of explicitly predicting past, present and future effects of climate variability and climate change on patterns of abundance, distribution and diversity in natural ecosystems using NASA products.

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