Despite increasing concern about the impacts of human activities on coastal ecosystems, few long-term studies of linkages among terrestrial, nearshore, and oceanic habitats exist. Our ability to predict how coastal ecosystems will respond to environmental change requires a recognition that the drivers of change (e.g., climate, disease, human actions) typically act over different temporal and spatial scales. We are helping to fill this gap by developing a predictive understanding of the structural and functional responses of giant kelp forest ecosystems to environmental forcing from the land and the sea.
Interdisciplinary studies coordinated among more than twenty investigators are designed to determine the relative influence of press and pulse environmental drivers on kelp forest ecosystems. Our research uses a variety of approaches including coordinated long term measurements of key parameters of coastal and kelp forest ecosystems, manipulative field experiments designed to isolate causal mechanisms, measurement intensive process studies that produce a mechanistic understanding of processes that cannot be isolated experimentally and synthetic analyses and modeling that allow predictions beyond the spatial and temporal scope of empirical data, across land, beach, ocean and reef ecosystems.