The Lighthouse Visitor Center is now only open Fridays through Mondays. The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center will be closed through late December 2013.
2013 Harbor Seal Pupping Season Closures
From March 1 through June 30, the park implements closures of certain Tomales Bay beaches and Drakes Estero to water-based recreation to protect harbor seals during the pupping season. Please avoid disturbing seals to ensure a successful pupping season.
Multimedia Presentations: The Natural Laboratory
The Natural Laboratory is a series of pod-casts, videos, audio-slide shows, and other multimedia presentations produced by Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center Science Communication Interns exploring science from Bay Area National Parks.
Once abundant along the entire west coast of North America, sea otters were hunted to the brink of extinction. A small population has recovered off the coast of central California, yet they have failed to expand their range. Cassandra Brooks interviews Tim Tinker and Jim Estes to find out why visitors at Point Reyes will not likely see California sea otters today.
Credit / Author:
Cassandra Brooks/Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center
The Natural Laboratory Podcast Script: California Sea Otters: A Gap in the Point Reyes Ecosystem
[Introduction] This is the Natural Laboratory, a podcast exploring science for Bay Area National Parks. I’m Cassandra Brooks. [intro music]
[Interview with Tim Tinker] Cassandra Brooks: Sea otters once thrived off the entire west coast of North America. The kelp forests off of Point Reyes Seashore would have been prime otter habitat. But aside from the occasional wayward male, visitors at Point Reyes won’t see California sea otters today. They were hunted to the brink of extinction in the 18th and 19th centuries for their thick pelts. A small population has recovered off the coast of central California, yet they have failed to expand their range. But why? Tim Tinker: The first and most honest response to that is we don’t know the answer completely. CB: That’s Tim Tinker, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Santa Cruz, CA who studies otters in the Monterey Bay. I met up with Tim in Santa Cruz to find out more. TT: Over the last ten or fifteen years, our research projects have provided us with a lot of insight into some of the factors that are limiting population recovery. In the north end of the range, the reason we probably do not see sea otters up around Point Reyes Seashore yet, it has a lot to do with shark bite mortality. CB: And you are saying again it’s shark bite--it’s not as if the sharks are targeting otters--their just accidentally checking them out, or they are checking them out intentionally and accidentally killing them. TT: Yeah, that is why you’ll notice I am being very careful not to use the term shark predation. These are all single bites and what we think they are, are exploratory bites by the shark to determine whether or not it wants to eat this particular object or not. But even a small bite from a white shark is generally lethal for a sea otter. CB: But shark bites are only one of many threats to California sea otters. Disease, parasites, pollution, and even fishery interactions all contribute to sea otter mortality. But also the otters--particularly the females--just don’t move a whole lot. Tinker says the larger Central California sea otter population is actually a series of small neighborhoods with limited exchange between them, especially for females. TT: Most animals in the population do not move very far from the point we capture them for the next three or four years… when we study their movements and their behavior, they really don’t move more than five or ten kilometers along the coast. CB: For sea otters to increase their range north, females would have to venture from their local neighborhood. But they seldom do, says Tinker. From the time they mature at three until the time they die, females give birth to one pup each year, and so they are almost always either nursing or pregnant. These high-energy demands require adult females to know their local feeding habitat extremely well, and unlike males they rarely make extensive movements.
[Interview with Jim Estes] CB: Scientists are working hard to better understand what’s happening with California sea otters because they are so important in maintaining a healthy nearshore environment. After talking with Tinker, I caught up with Jim Estes, a Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of California, Santa Cruz who was the first to truly document how profound the sea otter’s role is. He went to Alaska in the 1970s where small segments of the Alaskan sea otter population were beginning to recover. Jim Estes: They were thought to be extinct in the early part of the twentieth century, but in fact there were a few small remnant colonies. But since they are very poor dispersers their population buildups were very localized and so there was fifty years of recovery, but it was a very fragmented localized type of recovery. So here we had islands that remained uninhabited by otters and others on which they had completely recovered. And so the first step was simply to go to one of these islands where they hadn’t recovered and it took like a tenth of a second to see the story. I mean it was just so stunning. You know I walked out on the shore and I looked down there and instead of kelp all over the bottom, it was just green with sea urchins, and the water clarity was different, and the bottom, and the color and there were all these urchin tests on the beach, which I never saw at places where otters were abundant. And it was like wow, you know, otters eat urchins, urchins eat kelp, and there’s the story. JE: And then I started wondering, well gosh, what are the effects on the rest of the ecosystem? It’s like taking a forest out. What do you do to everything else--the birds, photosynthesis, and nutrient and energy flow, and all of that? CB: Estes continued to study otters and their effect on the ecosystem they live in, filling in the missing pieces of the story. JE: We understand now that there is this, what we call a trophic cascade. It’s a link, in this case, between predators, herbivores, and plants. That predator’s limit the herbivores, in this case the otters limit the urchins, thus facilitating the growth of the plants, and that those plants are really the base of the costal food web. And much of what we have been looking at in the otter kelp forest system is what the consequences of that interaction between otters and urchins and kelp is to other species in ecosystem processes. So what we have discovered is that when you take otters out of the system and the kelps become much less abundant, overall productivity goes way down. CB: Despite the ongoing threats to otters, Estes and Tinker are optimistic that otters might ever so slowly expand their range, perhaps even someday again thriving off the shores of Point Reyes National Seashore.
With the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center, I’m Cassandra Brooks.
Is that a seal or a sea lion? See and hear key differences between these marine mammals, and characteristics that make each unique. Also, get a glimpse of how San Francisco Bay Area National Parks keep track of the seal species that make their homes along our coasts.
The Natural Laboratory Podcast Script: Elephants, Seals, and Lions, Oh My!
Amy West: Along the coast from San Francisco to the tip of Point Reyes, you may encounter six species of marine mammals that hang out on land. Humans invariably have a tough time telling these seals and sea lions apart.
Paul Krantz: On occasion I do hear people say, "Look at the seals." And here we have sea lions. Noticeable differences between seals and sea lions are seal lions have ears that come out of their head, and they also walk on their flippers, whereas seals move like a slug on land.
Amy West: This fin-footed group of mammals, called pinnipeds are divided into those with ears and those without. The very large Stellar Sea Lions also have ear flaps but roar as opposed to the constant barking of California sea lions. Their bear-like head doesn't have the obvious crest like the dog-faced California sea lion. The shorter-snouted Northern Fur Seal has noticeably thick fur and longer ear flaps and rear flippers. Finally the Guadalupe fur seal also has thick fur, but is rarely seen in this area. None of these eared seals breed in Point Reyes National Seashore, but you might spot them hauled out on some offshore rocks, or the Farallon Islands.
Sarah Codde: I am responsible for the pinniped monitoring program. We monitor harbor seals and elephant seals.
Amy West: Those are the seals without ears. The shy, torpedo-shaped harbor seal is also the smallest of the pinnipeds, and the only ones to show no difference in size between the males and females.
Sarah Codde: They are really low-key animals. They don't move around too much. They are not very noisy. But they are very timid around people and other sources of disturbances. Sometimes birds can frighten them.
Sarah Allen: Harbor seals are the only species of the 6 that mates in the water. And they haul out at these locations that are like their cities. This is where they congregate on shore to rest and nurse their pups. And these places are usually in remote areas that are inaccessible to predators or people.
Amy West: This aloof behavior is unlike their cousins the elephant seals, who are easily distinguished by the male's large nose and hard-to mimic sounds.
Sarah Allen: Elephant seals trumpet. It's a very distinctive sound. It's very different from any other pinniped. [sound of bull elephant seal trumpeting] And this trumpet has been described as a single engine diesel popping noise.
Sarah Allen: So it's easy for you if you are walking down the beach to confuse a harbor seal with a young elephant seal. A quick way to identify is the large eyes that an elephant seal has, and kind of a larger head.
Sarah Codde: They are basically just the one color. Especially at the younger age- a yearling is going to be kind of a tan color and it won't have spots.
Harbor seals have more of a spotted, mottled look. They can be various colors. They can be brown, black, whites, different shades of tan, and kind of a rusty red color.
Amy West: Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the few places you can encounter this many species of seals and sea lions.
Amy West: So if seeing one with earflaps like the stellar and California sea lion, or northern and Guadalupe fur seal, listen for barking and look for a knot on top of the head.
Amy West: If you can't see any ears, it's an elephant or harbor seal, and if spotted in color and shy you are probably looking at a harbor seal.
Sarah Allen: Keep a distance so that you don't interact with the animals. And watch them and enjoy their presence in these remote areas.
Amy West: Knowing the difference between them can guide your behavior, and could score you bonus points with your friends.
Sarah Allen: And then elephants seals are [snorting sound mimicking bull elephants seal trumpet]. That's when you get too close to them. Elephant seal pup: baa baa [mimicking call of elephant seal pup].
The Natural Laboratory Podcast Script: Declining fog in coastal California?
[Introduction] This is the Natural Laboratory, a podcast exploring science for Bay Area National Parks. I’m Cassandra Brooks [intro music]
[Interview with Mike Vasey] Cassandra Brooks: Can you tell me where we are right now? Mike Vasey: Point Reyes peninsula, which is really one of the fog capitals of the universe. And looking out over Point Reyes Headland, and Drakes Bay, and the Pacific Ocean, and it's a fantastic scene. Along the coast it's particularly exciting; you have so many different unique species that occur. CB: That's Mike Vasey, a lecturer at San Francisco State University and PhD student at UC Santa Cruz who studies plants on the California coast. The rich, lush environment of Point Reyes--and really all of coastal California--heavily depends on the fog. During rainless summers, this fog--which can account for 1/3 of the ecosystem's water input--is critical to the persistence of the local plants and ecosystem. CB: Earlier you were explaining to me where fog originates from. Can you tell that story to me now? MV: Well, let me start here on the coast. We have upwelling of really cold water--very rich, nutrient rich--right off the immediate coast. Then winds that are warmer, that have a lot of moisture, come sweeping in off the Pacific, and when they hit that upwelling cold water, they condense into fog. And the third big factor is that you have these hot air masses that are moving out towards the ocean at high elevation, and as they move out towards the pacific, they kind of depress down and cause an inversion of that condensation, that cloud layer, so it becomes this so called marine layer. And this occurs late spring through the summer.
[Interview with Todd Dawson] CB: But recent studies have indicated that the fog is declining from the California coast. I went to meet with Todd Dawson, a professor at UC Berkeley who has studied California fog for decades. In a recent study with former graduate student and postdoc Jim Johnstone, Dawson found some troubling trends. Todd Dawson: Jim and I basically discovered that if we looked over the last 50 to 60 years, we started to see that not only temperatures along the coast were warming up, but fog was actually declining. And when we started to really look at that even over longer time frames, we began to see really over the last century, fog has been declining and it's declined by about 30 percent in about 100 years here in coastal California. CB: Are you able to see any impact on the environment yet from this? Or will it take longer to see a shift? TD: We are beginning to see some signs of that change in the fog-water inputs may be having some impacts in the southern parts of, say, the redwood range. So you go down to southern Big Sur, right at the very southern end of where the coast redwood lives, and we begin to see now that the summers are a lot drier, soils dry out, they are drier for a longer period of time. CB: And it means that perhaps the redwood range will shift north, or will just decrease, or might go away all together? TD: Some of the predictions that have been recently released, and some of this work has been done by a woman named Healy Hamilton, who has been really interested in modeling climatic envelopes of plants. And she is focused specifically on the coast redwood. And she said just what you've said, is that the climatic envelope that's going to favor the coast redwood is going to creep its way north into Oregon and also it’s going to creep its way west. And of course that is impossible because as we go west we hit the Pacific Ocean. So what that really means is that the envelope is getting narrower, it's moving north, and at the southern end of the range, it is going to get drier and hotter, and we are probably going to be losing trees there eventually. Whether that happens in the next 20 years or the next 50 years, we can’t really say yet. CB: What can people do? What can the national parks do, or the state parks do? TD: There are a couple of strategies that we've been talking with the parks about. Of course there's always playing a very active role. We can plant trees, and we can plant trees into areas that may be much more favorable--little microclimatic areas--little niches that we know could be very favorable to healthy redwood growth. Those are obviously going to be wetter, cooler areas because the redwoods really love those. We could also try to--in a sort of entire geographical context--go and do an analysis of where are those climatic niches that might be very favorable for future recruitment and healthy growth for mature trees, and make sure those areas are set aside. CB: A few of my friends that I mentioned to that I was doing this story on how fog is declining in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz area, they said, "No way! I see just as much fog; there is more fog!" TD: You have to take the normal oscillation along with the long tern trends to really understand how something like fog decline or temperature increases really play out. In our human experience, we kind of remember one year at a time, and I think sometimes that is why sometimes people say, "Hey wait a minute it was a really foggy year last year!" And you go, "You know, you're right. It was." But in the long term picture it's actually been on the decline. CB: With the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center, I'm Cassandra Brooks
The Natural Laboratory Podcast Script: Searching for the Endangered Black Abalone in Northern California
[Introduction] This is the Natural Laboratory, a podcast exploring science for Bay Area National Parks. I'm Cassandra Brooks [intro music] Black Abalone is one of seven abalone species found in California's intertidal waters. This small abalone, with a smooth dark shell, has succumbed to the same fate as most abalones: overfishing. Commercial fisheries for Black Abalones began in 1968 and by the 1990s landings plummeted to zero. But fishing wasn't the only culprit. Black Abalones have gotten sick, really sick with withering syndrome. This disease, caused by a bacterial infection, halts the abalone's production of digestive enzymes. No longer able to digest food, the abalone must consume its own body mass. The disease was first recognized in the mid 1980s and has since decimated Black Abalone populations by up to 99% in some regions. As a result, Black Abalones have been classified as critically endangered by the IUCN. Thus far, Southern California populations have been especially hard hit by withering syndrome. Yet little is known about the status of Northern populations.
[Interview with Darren Fong] Darren Fong: We got a request from the federal agency, National Marine Fisheries Service for information about the status and trends of Black Abalone in our park. We actually had no information to provide them because we never did any surveys for that species within our park. Cassandra Brooks: That's Darren Fong, Aquatic Ecologist with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Per request, Fong set out with interns Amy Henry and Kari Eckdahl looking for Black Abalones in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore. Here's Amy Henry.
[Interview with Amy Henry] Amy Henry: Well no large-scale survey has been done of Black Abalone north of San Francisco Bay before or even in the Bay Area. Black Abalone have never been particularly common in this area, but no one has ever been out and surveyed these sites before. So although we know that they are rare, we don't know how rare. The data and information that we are collecting is going to provide information for future studies, for the studies of these endangered species, and will lead to better legislation and how to protect them. CB: So far, they've found Black Abalones, but not very many of them and none with withering foot syndrome. But these surveys are just the first step. CB: Part of their challenge is getting down to the rocky and sometimes treacherous intertidal, where the abalones live. AH: So the sites we've been surveying have been identified using Google Earth and a project a few years back called “The Coastal Biophysical Inventory.” This project identified areas of rocky coastline where abalone could possible live. So basically all we know about a site beforehand is that it is rocky. We interviewed Park Rangers from the local area to find out about the best trails to get down to sites. Sometimes this requires a rope to climb down crumbly steep cliffs, sometimes we get there and it doesn't look like good abalone habitat at all and we are sorely disappointed. AH: We're also working at very early in the morning hours. The timing of our surveys have to be going with the low tides, and they have to be negative tides, below zero tides. Some of these occur at 4:30 in the morning. We have woken up at 3 am before and taken a hike out in the dark with flashlights where we think there are spooky creatures behind every turn. CB: To Amy and Kari all the early mornings and scrambling over cliffs have been worth it.
[Conclusion] AH: The park service really has a mission that you can get behind. You can really support and know that the work you are doing is for the benefit of all the citizens of America and California and to protect it for future generations. Even for our small little piece of protecting Black Abalone, is a really beautiful creature that I never appreciated before, never knew much about before. And hopefully because of our work, we will be able to show it to our children in the future and say we had a piece in protecting this animal from going extinct.
CB: With the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center, I'm Cassandra Brooks.
Cassandra Brooks interviews Ivano Aiello, a geological oceanographer at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, about how we burn ancient life to power our civilization and some of the issues that result from fossil fuel pollution.
Credit / Author:
Cassandra Brooks/Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center
The Natural Laboratory Podcast Script: Burning Ancient Life: The Geology of an Oil Reserve
[Introduction] This is the Natural Laboratory, a podcast exploring science for Bay Area National Parks. I’m Cassandra Brooks. [intro music] Phytoplankton form the base of the ocean’s food chains transferring energy from the sun to sustain the global ocean. These tiny floating plants account for half of the photosynthetic activity on Earth. They also generate the majority of our fossil fuels.
[Interview with Ivano Aiello] Ivano Aiello: Ninety-five percent of oil is marine algae, marine plankton. Cassandra Brooks: Ninety-five percent? IA: Yeah. I mean the vast majority of oil comes from marine plankton. CB: That’s Ivano Aiello, a geological oceanographer at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in Monterey Bay, California. According to Ivano, plankton populations bloom, then die and drift to the seafloor. Slowly, they accumulate, getting compressed and buried under sediments, and so long as they are in low oxygen conditions, the plankton will be preserved. And how long of a time period are we talking about here for all of this to happen? IA: Millions, to hundreds of millions of years, it takes millions of years for oil to form. CB: So even though probably right now there is new oil being formed all the time… IA: We’ll have to wait millions to hundreds of millions of years. The scale of things we are talking about is insane. Our rate of consumption is orders of magnitude faster than anything that has to do with the actual formation of oil. We are exploiting something that moves so slowly, there is no way that it can be regenerated anytime soon. But that’s what we use in our cars something that formed 400 million years ago. So it would be really nice to have this at the gas station so people will say, wait a second, I’m burning this gas in the next two hours and it took 200 million years to form?! CB: And it isn’t even just gas for our cars; our entire western lives depend on petroleum products. Our roads are covered in tar. Petroleum based plastics are all around us—in our phones, computers, cameras, toys, clothes, toothbrushes, and cosmetic bottles. And almost everything we buy at the grocery store is covered in plastic. And while we once found reserves of oil so rich and abundant they came bubbling out of the ground, we now have to probe ever deeper and farther. At this point, we have to use a great deal of oil to drill for more oil. IA: So that’s the problem. When we were working on land mostly, you could poke the ground and oil comes out, that was it. It cost one gallon of oil to drill 100 gallons of oil. Now we are talking about one gallon of oil to drill I don’t know, 10 gallons of oil or 20, so it’s becoming more and more expensive. That’s the problem and when you push the technology offshore, not only do you increase the risks, but also it’s very expensive. An offshore oil rig is a really expensive thing to run. But our thirst for oil is so much, that we are really like drug addicts right now, we are looking for a little drop somewhere. IA: So I gave a lecture after the oil spill… CB: You did? IA: Yeah, on the Deepwater Horizon, so that’s why it was actually neat you asked me to talk to you, because I was reading more about offshore drilling. This is a map from 2006. There are 3,858 oil and gas platform only in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s like covered. CB: No way. IA: Yes, way. I mean look at that. They are just next to each other. So think about when you have a hurricane coming through this thing. It’s insane. I don’t know…Our society is a fossil fuel based society. Our civilization in the last several hundreds years since the beginning of the industrial revolution has been completely dependent on fossil fuels. But that’s why we’ve had this amazing increase in technology in the last few hundred years and also life quality. Unfortunately, it allows us to travel, allows us to make clothing and containers, everything, everything. But it’s a limited resource.
[Conclusion] Here in 2011, we are at a crossroads; those tiny plankton sinking and compressing over millions of years can’t support our appetite for energy. As humans, we have incredible ingenuity, which is why we’ve been so efficient at using up our oil reserves. As we look to the future, perhaps it’s time to apply that same ingenuity to cutting energy consumption and employing alternative energies, ones that don’t depend on ancient ocean plants. With the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center, I’m Cassandra Brooks.
More than a hundred thousand marine species build their bodies using calcium carbonate. This incredible diversity of life evolved over millions of years, as animals figured out ways to pull calcium and carbonate ions from the water to build shells and skeletons. But all of this is changing. Our addiction to fossil fuels and the billions of tons of carbon dioxide we're pumping into the atmosphere each year may be undoing millions of years of evolution in a geological blink of time.
Credit / Author:
Cassandra Brooks/Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center
The Natural Laboratory Podcast Script: Ocean Acidification: Where will all the seashells go?
Introduction This is the Natural Laboratory, a podcast exploring science for Bay Area National Parks. I'm Cassandra Brooks. More than a hundred thousand marine species build their bodies using calcium carbonate, including snails, oysters, sea stars, coral, and plenty of planktonic animals. This incredible diversity of life evolved over millions of years, as animals figured out ways to pull calcium and carbonate ions from the water to build shells and skeletons so robust that they remain intact long after the animals perish. But all of this is changing. Our addiction to fossil fuels and the billions of tons of carbon dioxide [CO2] we're pumping into the atmosphere each year may be undoing millions of years of evolution in a geological blink of time.
Ann Russell Interview Ann Russell: Geochemists and oceanographers have known for a long time that when CO2 dissolves in water, it forms an acid. Cassandra Brooks: That's Ann Russell, an ocean geochemist at the University of California, Davis who studies ocean acidification in Tomales Bay, just east of Point Reyes National Seashore. I spent a day in the field with her to learn more [photo of Ann from field]. Almost one third of global carbon dioxide is absorbed by the oceans, says Ann. This excess CO2 reacts with seawater, freeing hydrogen ions, which lowers the pH and makes the water more acidic. Living in more acidic waters is bad enough for shell building animals, but CO2 adds another problem. Animals need both calcium and carbonate to build their skeletons. But the extra hydrogen ions in the high CO2 water bind carbonate, reducing the amount available for animals to build their shells. So what might this mean for the future of calcifying organisms?? [Music and video of sand dollar dissolving] AR: Just to bring in some of the geological perspective on this—18,000 years ago during the last glacial maximum, atmospheric CO2 was 200, 200 parts per million then it rose at the end of the glacial period. CB: But it only rose to 280 ppm, Ann says, and the increase happened over an 8,000 year period. Since the industrial revolution, atmospheric carbon dioxide has now spiked to more than 390 parts per million. That's an increase of 110 ppm in only 250 years. AR: So they're faced with much more rapid change than has ever been seen in the geologic record, ever. We don't have a geologic analogue for the rate of change going on right now.
Terry Swyer Interview CB: Given how fast the ocean's chemistry is changing, it's no surprise that we're beginning to see widespread effects in many calcifying animals, including those we like to eat. Oyster hatcheries in the Pacific c Northwest have recently experienced massive larval die off s. When scientists measured local seawater, they found that during certain times of the year, the waters were corrosive enough to be the culprit. Terry Sawyer: It's fairly insidious, as far as the effects, if you're talking about degradation of shell because of the lack of ability to bind the calcium carbonate, which is what our bivalves use to build their homes. CB: That's Terry Sawyer, one of the owners of Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, California. Terry said that young oysters are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification. Their thin shells dissolve much faster and they struggle to make their transition from planktonic larvae to settling out on the seafloor. In general, more acidic waters simply stress the animals out. TS: So what are we seeing, you ask. Let's say in the past five, let's go even ten years, we're seeing disease, a lot of disease issues. Why are they becoming more susceptible to disease? Maybe there's an introduction of that disease from another shellfi sh growing regions, maybe there is transport going on, maybe there is stress, that's where we go into the OA. CB: OA or ocean acidification. Hatcheries and oyster growers are actively discussing mitigation strategies, like only pumping in seawater during low CO2 periods or installing seawater treatment systems.
Andrew Dickson Interview CB: These strategies might work in the short term, but would prove ever more difficult as atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise. And they're sure to continue rising—even if we stopped all CO2 emissions tomorrow, the oceans won't quickly return to pre-industrial levels. Andrew Dickson: That's one of the biggest concerns—if we add CO2 to the oceans and then we just stopped how long would it take. CB: That's Andrew Dickson, a chemical oceanographer with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. AD: Well one picture is that it would keep going up a little bit, because the CO2 in the atmosphere has not all yet dissolved in the ocean. But after awhile it would start coming down. Unfortunately, after awhile is tens of thousands of years. We're putting it in over a few hundred years and if we leave it to purely natural processes of our planet to take us back to where it would, I don't like to use the word, perhaps “prefer” to be, the general chemistry, it's going to take tens of thousands of years. CB: Do you have any visions in your mind of what the future ocean''s going to look like in light of these changes? [pause] Visions, nightmares, dreams…? AD: Visions, nightmares, dreams, I don't know. Clearly it's going to change the possibility for a variety of calcium carbonate organisms in certain environments. The coral reefs—if they grow more slowly, they are always being hit by waves and broken up. So you have to keep growing back. If it's harder for them to grow then they may get to the point they are not growing fast enough to stay the same and they start shrinking. And the coral is a wonderful place, the reason it looks so beautiful with all the fishes and everything is that it provides so much protection for all these different species. It's a whole ecosystem that's kept there in part just because there is this reef. CB: We've touched on some worse case scenarios of animals dissolving, what's the best-case scenario of what we could expect in the future? AD: Probably the best thing would be a combination of things happening at once. We could reduce how much CO2 we're putting in the atmosphere so that we never went to the stage to where it's guaranteed to be bad. Just to where it might not be good. We might be lucky, there could be organisms that have it within their genetic capacity, the ability to adapt to the changed chemistry. That's plausible. Is it likely? We don't know, we really don't know. In addition, there might be some local things we can do that help. For instance we were talking here about helping hatcheries for oyster larvae. Where a very simple dealing with it, don't take high CO2 seawater, that would work. That would work locally, you could almost imagine making changes on a larger scale, over a few square miles even, but I can't imagine making those changes on the whole of the ocean. So it would be a matter of deciding that there were some parts that were more sensitive or more valuable and taking active action to change things.
Conclusion It's hard to imagine that humans are burning so much fossil fuel that we've altered our atmosphere, and now our oceans, faster than has ever happened in the history of the Earth. And it's easy to feel hopeless. But I walked away my conversations feeling that our fate and the fate of our oceans were not yet sealed. We live in an ever-connected world, which affords incredible power to educate and be educated. We have the power to learn about the world around us and to listen to the scientists who are continuously deciphering our impact on it. We have the power to teach our children, to inspire change in our communities, and to support policies that are in favor of a healthy planet. We have the power to make a choice every day about how we live our lives. With the Pacific Coast Science and Learning Center, I'm Cassandra Brooks.
Point Reyes National Seashore has established a sister park relationship with Kolkheti National Park in the Republic of Georgia. Located on the coast of the Black Sea, Kolkheti National Park protects an interesting variety of landscapes, flora, and fauna.