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Coastal Studies Center

Heather Leslie: Rocky shore responses to multiple stressors

Principle Researcher: Heather Leslie, Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University
Research Team: Marcy Cockrell, Bridgette Black, Caitlin Brisson, Lauren Watka
August 2011

Research Abstract: As overfishing, climate change, pollution, and other stressors continue to impact ocean ecosystems, national and international bodies increasingly have called for a shift toward more comprehensive management. In order to inform more comprehensive, ecosystem-based approaches, we need more information on how these myriad stressors ? including nutrient pollution and the thermal stress associated with climate change ? influence the health of coastal marine ecosystems. Using estuarine rocky shores from Maine to New York as a model system, we will answer the following research question: How will New England rocky shores respond to the cumulative effects of climate change ? specifically rising air temperature ? and nutrient loading, and how are management strategies likely to influence those responses? Our research objectives are: 1) To experimentally evaluate the cumulative impacts of changes in air temperature and nutrient loading on key species and species interactions in estuarine rocky shores; and 2) To investigate how dynamic in space and time the distribution and abundance of these species are via large-scale, long-term observational studies, so as to place the laboratory and field experiments in context. The results of this project will directly advance the theory and empirical understanding of how coastal marine ecosystems respond to multiple stressors, provide tests of key theoretical models, and contribute information relevant to scenario planning, monitoring and assessment, and implementation of ecosystem-based management in coastal marine ecosystems, particularly in New England.