Faculty Publications

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  • Article
    The future of ocean plastics: designing diverse collaboration frameworks
    (Oxford University Press, 2023-04-07) Mofokeng, Refilwe P. ; Faltynkova, Andrea ; Alfonso, Maria Belen ; Boujmil, Ines ; Carvalho, I R B ; Lunzalu, Kevin ; Mohd Zanuri, Norlaila Binti ; Nyadjro, Ebenezer S. ; Puskic, Peter S. ; Lindsay, Dhugal John ; Willis, Kathryn ; Adyel, Tanveer M. ; Serra-Goncalves, Catarina ; Zolich, Artur ; Eriksen, Thor S. ; Evans, Henri-Count ; Gabriel, Daniela ; Hajbane, Sara ; Suaria, Giuseppe ; Law, Kara Lavender ; Lobelle, Delphine
    This paper aims to guide the stakeholder engagement process related to plastic pollution research in marine environments. We draw on advice identified during an online workshop (Ocean Plastic Workshop 2022) organized by Early Career Ocean Professionals (ECOPs) from 11 countries, held in April 2022. International experts and workshop participants discussed their experiences in the collaborative development and implementation of ocean plastic pollution projects held worldwide, guided by three main questions: (i) What is the role of scientists in a multi-stakeholder project? (ii) How should scientists communicate with other stakeholders? (iii) Which stakeholders are missing in collaborative projects, and why are they missing? This multidisciplinary, co-learning approach highlights the value of stakeholder engagement for ocean plastic projects with an end goal to identify and implement ocean plastic solutions via innovative technologies, informing policy, community engagement, or a combination of all three approaches. The target outcomes of the workshop described in this paper include the identification of transdisciplinary (academic-stakeholder) engagement frameworks and specific suggestions that can serve as guidelines for the development of future plastic pollution projects.
  • Article
    Relative exposure to microplastics and prey for a pelagic forage fish
    (IOP Publishing, 2022-06-07) Chavarry, Julia M. ; Law, Kara L. ; Barton, Andrew D. ; Bowlin, Noelle M. ; Ohman, Mark D. ; Choy, C. Anela
    In the global ocean, more than 380 species are known to ingest microplastics (plastic particles less than 5 mm in size), including mid-trophic forage fishes central to pelagic food webs. Trophic pathways that bioaccumulate microplastics in marine food webs remain unclear. We assess the potential for the trophic transfer of microplastics through forage fishes, which are prey for diverse predators including commercial and protected species. Here, we quantify Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax) exposure to microplastics relative to their natural zooplankton prey, across their vertical habitat. Microplastic and zooplankton samples were collected from the California Current Ecosystem in 2006 and 2007. We estimated the abundance of microplastics beyond the sampled size range but within anchovy feeding size ranges using global microplastic size distributions. Depth-integrated microplastics (0–30 m depth) were estimated using a depth decay model, accounting for the effects of wind-driven vertical mixing on buoyant microplastics. In this coastal upwelling biome, the median relative exposure for an anchovy that consumed prey 0.287–5 mm in size was 1 microplastic particle for every 3399 zooplankton individuals. Microplastic exposure varied, peaking within offshore habitats, during the winter, and during the day. Maximum exposure to microplastic particles relative to zooplankton prey was higher for juvenile (1:23) than adult (1:33) anchovy due to growth-associated differences in anchovy feeding. Overall, microplastic particles constituted fewer than 5% of prey-sized items available to anchovy. Microplastic exposure is likely to increase for forage fishes in the global ocean alongside declines in primary productivity, and with increased water column stratification and microplastic pollution.
  • Article
    The annual salinity cycle of the Denmark Strait Overflow
    (American Geophysical Union, 2022-03-22) Opher, Jacob G. ; Brearley, J. Alexander ; Dye, Stephen R. ; Pickart, Robert S. ; Renfrew, Ian A. ; Harden, Benjamin E. ; Meredith, Michael P.
    The Denmark Strait Overflow (DSO) is an important source of dense water input to the deep limb of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). It is fed by separate currents from the north that advect dense water masses formed in the Nordic Seas and Arctic Ocean which then converge at Denmark Strait. Here we identify an annual salinity cycle of the DSO, characterized by freshening in winter and spring. The freshening is linked to freshening of the Shelfbreak East Greenland Current in the Blosseville Basin north of the Denmark Strait. We demonstrate that the East Greenland Current advects fresh pycnocline water above the recirculating Atlantic Water, which forms a low salinity lid for the overflow in Denmark Strait and in the Irminger Basin. This concept is supported by intensified freshening of the DSO in lighter density classes on the Greenland side of the overflow. The salinity of the DSO in the Irminger Basin is significantly correlated with northerly/northeasterly winds in the Blosseville Basin at a lag of 3–4 months, consistent with estimated transit times. This suggests that wind driven variability of DSO source water exerts an important influence on the salinity variability of the downstream DSO, and hence the composition of the deep limb of the AMOC.
  • Article
    Responses of benthic calcifying algae to ocean acidification differ between laboratory and field settings
    (Oxford University Press, 2021-12-09) Page, Heather N. ; Bahr, Keisha D. ; Cyronak, Tyler J. ; Jewett, Elizabeth B. ; Johnson, Maggie D. ; McCoy, Sophie J.
    Accurately predicting the effects of ocean and coastal acidification on marine ecosystems requires understanding how responses scale from laboratory experiments to the natural world. Using benthic calcifying macroalgae as a model system, we performed a semi-quantitative synthesis to compare directional responses between laboratory experiments and field studies. Variability in ecological, spatial, and temporal scales across studies, and the disparity in the number of responses documented in laboratory and field settings, make direct comparisons difficult. Despite these differences, some responses, including community-level measurements, were consistent across laboratory and field studies. However, there were also mismatches in the directionality of many responses with more negative acidification impacts reported in laboratory experiments. Recommendations to improve our ability to scale responses include: (i) developing novel approaches to allow measurements of the same responses in laboratory and field settings, and (ii) researching understudied calcifying benthic macroalgal species and responses. Incorporating these guidelines into research programs will yield data more suitable for robust meta-analyses and will facilitate the development of ecosystem models that incorporate proper scaling of organismal responses to in situ acidification. This, in turn, will allow for more accurate predictions of future changes in ecosystem health and function in a rapidly changing natural climate.
  • Article
    Export of ice sheet meltwater from Upernavik Fjord, West Greenland
    (American Meteorological Society, 2022-03-01) Muilwijk, Morven ; Straneo, Fiamma ; Slater, Donald A. ; Smedsrud, Lars H. ; Holte, James W. ; Wood, Michael ; Andresen, Camilla S. ; Harden, Benjamin E.
    Meltwater from Greenland is an important freshwater source for the North Atlantic Ocean, released into the ocean at the head of fjords in the form of runoff, submarine melt, and icebergs. The meltwater release gives rise to complex in-fjord transformations that result in its dilution through mixing with other water masses. The transformed waters, which contain the meltwater, are exported from the fjords as a new water mass Glacially Modified Water (GMW). Here we use summer hydrographic data collected from 2013 to 2019 in Upernavik, a major glacial fjord in northwest Greenland, to describe the water masses that flow into the fjord from the shelf and the exported GMWs. Using an optimum multi-parameter technique across multiple years we then show that GMW is composed of 57.8% ± 8.1% Atlantic Water (AW), 41.0% ± 8.3% Polar Water (PW), 1.0% ± 0.1% subglacial discharge, and 0.2% ± 0.2% submarine meltwater. We show that the GMW fractional composition cannot be described by buoyant plume theory alone since it includes lateral mixing within the upper layers of the fjord not accounted for by buoyant plume dynamics. Consistent with its composition, we find that changes in GMW properties reflect changes in the AW and PW source waters. Using the obtained dilution ratios, this study suggests that the exchange across the fjord mouth during summer is on the order of 50 mSv (1 Sv ≡ 106 m3 s−1) (compared to a freshwater input of 0.5 mSv). This study provides a first-order parameterization for the exchange at the mouth of glacial fjords for large-scale ocean models.
  • Article
    Effects of ocean acidification on the performance and interaction of fleshy macroalgae and a grazing sea urchin
    (Elsevier, 2021-11-24) Burnham, Katherine A. ; Nowicki, Robert J. ; Hall, Emily R. ; Pi, Joshua ; Page, Heather N.
    When predicting the response of marine ecosystems to climate change, it is increasingly recognized that understanding the indirect effects of ocean acidification on trophic interactions is as important as studying direct effects on organism physiology. Furthermore, comprehensive studies that examine these effects simultaneously are needed to identify and link the underlying mechanisms driving changes in species interactions. Using an onshore ocean acidification simulator system, we investigated the direct and indirect effects of elevated seawater pCO2 on the physiology and trophic interaction of fleshy macroalgae and the grazing sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus. Macroalgal (Dictyota spp.) biomass increased despite decreased photosynthetic rates after two-week exposure to elevated pCO2. Algal tissue carbon content remained constant, suggesting the use of alternative carbon acquisition pathways beneficial to growth under acidification. Higher C:N ratios driven by a slight reduction in N content in algae exposed to elevated pCO2 suggest a decrease in nutritional content under acidification. Urchin (L. variegatus) respiration, biomass, and righting time did not change significantly after six-week exposure to elevated pCO2, indicating that physiological stress and changes in metabolism are not mechanisms through which the trophic interaction was impacted. Correspondingly, urchin consumption rates of untreated macroalgae (Caulerpa racemosa) were not significantly affected by pCO2. In contrast, exposure of urchins to elevated pCO2 significantly reduced the number of correct foraging choices for ambient macroalgae (Dictyota spp.), indicating impairment of urchin chemical sensing under acidification. However, exposure of algae to elevated pCO2 returned the number of correct foraging choices in similarly exposed urchins to ambient levels, suggesting alongside higher C:N ratios that algal nutritional content was altered in a way detectable by the urchins under acidification. These results highlight the importance of studying the indirect effects of acidification on trophic interactions simultaneously with direct effects on physiology. Together, these results suggest that changes to urchin chemical sensing and algal nutritional quality are the driving mechanisms behind surprisingly unaltered urchin foraging behavior for fleshy macroalgae under joint exposure to ocean acidification. Consistent foraging behavior and consumption rates suggest that the trophic interaction between L. variegatus and fleshy macroalgae may be sustained under future acidification. However, increases in fleshy macroalgal biomass driven by opportunistic carbon acquisition strategies have the potential to cause ecological change, depending on how grazer populations respond. Additional field research is needed to determine the outcome of these results over time and under a wider range of environmental conditions.
  • Article
    The United States' contribution of plastic waste to land and ocean
    (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2020-10-30) Law, Kara L. ; Starr, Natalie ; Siegler, Theodore R. ; Jambeck, Jenna ; Mallos, Nicholas J. ; Leonard, George H.
    Plastic waste affects environmental quality and ecosystem health. In 2010, an estimated 5 to 13 million metric tons (Mt) of plastic waste entered the ocean from both developing countries with insufficient solid waste infrastructure and high-income countries with very high waste generation. We demonstrate that, in 2016, the United States generated the largest amount of plastic waste of any country in the world (42.0 Mt). Between 0.14 and 0.41 Mt of this waste was illegally dumped in the United States, and 0.15 to 0.99 Mt was inadequately managed in countries that imported materials collected in the United States for recycling. Accounting for these contributions, the amount of plastic waste generated in the United States estimated to enter the coastal environment in 2016 was up to five times larger than that estimated for 2010, rendering the United States’ contribution among the highest in the world.
  • Article
    Ocean acidification disrupts the orientation of postlarval Caribbean spiny lobsters
    (Nature Research, 2020-10-22) Gravinese, Philip M. ; Page, Heather N. ; Butler, Casey B. ; Spadaro, Angelo Jason ; Hewett, Clay ; Considine, Megan ; Lankes, David ; Fisher, Samantha
    Anthropogenic inputs into coastal ecosystems are causing more frequent environmental fluctuations and reducing seawater pH. One such ecosystem is Florida Bay, an important nursery for the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus. Although adult crustaceans are often resilient to reduced seawater pH, earlier ontogenetic stages can be physiologically limited in their tolerance to ocean acidification on shorter time scales. We used a Y-maze chamber to test whether reduced-pH seawater altered the orientation of spiny lobster pueruli toward chemical cues produced by Laurencia spp. macroalgae, a known settlement cue for the species. We tested the hypothesis that pueruli conditioned in reduced-pH seawater would be less responsive to Laurencia spp. chemical cues than pueruli in ambient-pH seawater by comparing the proportion of individuals that moved to the cue side of the chamber with the proportion that moved to the side with no cue. We also recorded the amount of time (sec) before a response was observed. Pueruli conditioned in reduced-pH seawater were less responsive and failed to select the Laurencia cue. Our results suggest that episodic acidification of coastal waters might limit the ability of pueruli to locate settlement habitats, increasing postsettlement mortality.
  • Presentation
    Data Management in (Ocean) Sciences – Interactive Class
    (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, 2020-02-26) Soenen, Karen ; Harden, Benjamin E.
    Ocean 101, engaging classes to help SEA students understand the frontiers of ocean climate science. This particular class focuses on data management in oceanography. Covered topics are the importance of open data, the data life cycle and F.A.I.R. Principles. The interactive part consists of creating the content for a data management plan and applying general data management practices.
  • Article
    Trends in physical properties at the southern New England shelf break
    (American Geophysical Union, 2020-01-21) Harden, Benjamin E. ; Gawarkiewicz, Glen G. ; Infante, Mia
    We analyze 11 years (2003–2013) of repeat temperature and salinity sections from across the New England shelf break south of Cape Cod during early summer (June–July). The mean sections resolved the shelf break front which supports the Shelf Break Jet, a vital component of the regional circulation. Individual sections showed a great deal of variability associated with meanders in the shelf break front consistent with previous studies in the region. Over the 11 year record, the shelf region (inshore of the 100 m isobath) warmed by 0.26 °C yr -1, with the majority of this warming occurring shallower than 20 m (0.58 °C yr -1). The full‐depth trend agrees well with previous studies of shelf warming to the north and the south of our study region. The temperature and salinity of the offshore edge of the Cold Pool Water on the shelf did not change significantly during this period. The surface warming on the shelf resulted in a decrease in near‐surface density of 0.12 kg m -3 yr -1 and an increase in stratification between 10 and 15 m of 6.7 X 10(-5) S -2 yr -1 . Offshore of the shelf break, the Slope Water also warmed and became more saline by 0.21 °C yr -1 and 0.04 yr -1 respectively, resulting in a maximal reduction in density of 0.01 kg m -3 yr -1. In the Shelf Break Front, there is some evidence of freshening and a reduction in density, which may have resulted from an offshore shift in the Cold Pool but the statistical significance is small.
  • Article
    Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made
    (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2017-07-19) Geyer, Roland ; Jambeck, Jenna ; Law, Kara L.
    Plastics have outgrown most man-made materials and have long been under environmental scrutiny. However, robust global information, particularly about their end-of-life fate, is lacking. By identifying and synthesizing dispersed data on production, use, and end-of-life management of polymer resins, synthetic fibers, and additives, we present the first global analysis of all mass-produced plastics ever manufactured. We estimate that 8300 million metric tons (Mt) as of virgin plastics have been produced to date. As of 2015, approximately 6300 Mt of plastic waste had been generated, around 9% of which had been recycled, 12% was incinerated, and 79% was accumulated in landfills or the natural environment. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12,000 Mt of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment by 2050.
  • Article
    Comparative mitochondrial and chloroplast genomics of a genetically distinct form of Sargassum contributing to recent “Golden Tides” in the Western Atlantic
    (John Wiley & Sons, 2016-12-20) Amaral-Zettler, Linda A. ; Dragone, Nicholas B. ; Schell, Jeffrey M. ; Slikas, Beth ; Murphy, Leslie G. ; Morrall, Clare E. ; Zettler, Erik R.
    Over the past 5 years, massive accumulations of holopelagic species of the brown macroalga Sargassum in coastal areas of the Caribbean have created “golden tides” that threaten local biodiversity and trigger economic losses associated with beach deterioration and impact on fisheries and tourism. In 2015, the first report identifying the cause of these extreme events implicated a rare form of the holopelagic species Sargassum natans (form VIII). However, since the first mention of S. natans VIII in the 1930s, based solely on morphological characters, no molecular data have confirmed this identification. We generated full-length mitogenomes and partial chloroplast genomes of all representative holopelagic Sargassum species, S. fluitans III and S. natans I alongside the putatively rare S. natans VIII, to demonstrate small but consistent differences between S. natans I and VIII (7 bp differences out of the 34,727). Our comparative analyses also revealed that both S. natans I and S. natans VIII share a very close phylogenetic relationship with S. fluitans III (94- and 96-bp differences of 34,727). We designed novel primers that amplified regions of the cox2 and cox3 marker genes with consistent polymorphic sites that enabled differentiation between the two S. natans forms (I and VIII) from each other and both from S. fluitans III in over 150 Sargassum samples including those from the 2014 golden tide event. Despite remarkable gene synteny and sequence conservation, the three Sargassum forms differ in morphology, ecology, and distribution patterns, warranting more extensive interrogation of holopelagic Sargassum genomes as a whole.
  • Article
    The biogeography of the Plastisphere : implications for policy
    (Ecological Society of America, 2015-12) Amaral-Zettler, Linda A. ; Zettler, Erik R. ; Slikas, Beth ; Boyd, Gregory D. ; Melvin, Donald W. ; Morrall, Clare E. ; Proskurowski, Giora ; Mincer, Tracy J.
    Microplastics (particles less than 5 mm) numerically dominate marine debris and occur from coastal waters to mid-ocean gyres, where surface circulation concentrates them. Given the prevalence of plastic marine debris (PMD) and the rise in plastic production, the impacts of plastic on marine ecosystems will likely increase. Microscopic life (the “Plastisphere”) thrives on these tiny floating “islands” of debris and can be transported long distances. Using next-generation DNA sequencing, we characterized bacterial communities from water and plastic samples from the North Pacific and North Atlantic subtropical gyres to determine whether the composition of different Plastisphere communities reflects their biogeographic origins. We found that these communities differed between ocean basins – and to a lesser extent between polymer types – and displayed latitudinal gradients in species richness. Our research reveals some of the impacts of microplastics on marine biodiversity, demonstrates that the effects and fate of PMD may vary considerably in different parts of the global ocean, and suggests that PMD mitigation will require regional management efforts.
  • Article
    Influence of Central Pacific oceanographic conditions on the potential vertical habitat of four tropical tuna species
    (University of Hawai'i Press, 2015-10) Deary, Alison L. ; Moret-Ferguson, Skye E. ; Engels, Mary ; Zettler, Erik R. ; Jaroslow, Gary E. ; Sancho, Gorka
    Climate change has resulted in the geographic and vertical expansion of oxygen minimum zones but their impact on the vertical distribution of commercially important species, such as tunas, is not well understood. Although La Niña events are characterized by increased upwelling along the equator, the increased primary productivity and bacterial proliferation drive the expansion of oxygen minimum zones. Vertical habitat of four tropical tuna species were characterized using direct observations of the oceanographic conditions of the Central Pacific Ocean during the 2008 La Niña event and existing primary literature on temperature and dissolved oxygen physiological tolerances for these tunas. Concentrations of potential prey were estimated using Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler raw backscatter and surface zooplankton tows. Based on the oceanographic conditions observed from February to June, low dissolved oxygen levels, more so than low temperatures, were inferred to restrict the predicted vertical habitat of four commercially important tuna species (bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack, and albacore). During peak La Niña conditions, temperature and dissolved oxygen tolerance limits of all four tuna species were reached at approximately 200m. Zooplankton and myctophid fish densities peaked in the upper 200m between 0° N and 5° N, which corresponded to a region with a shallow thermocline (150 m). Our findings suggest the possibility that competition and susceptibility to surface fishing gears may be increased for tropical tunas during a strong La Niña event due to vertical habitat restrictions.
  • Article
    Seabirds, gyres and global trends in plastic pollution
    (Elsevier, 2015-04-11) van Franeker, Jan A. ; Law, Kara L.
    Fulmars are effective biological indicators of the abundance of floating plastic marine debris. Long-term data reveal high plastic abundance in the southern North Sea, gradually decreasing to the north at increasing distance from population centres, with lowest levels in high-arctic waters. Since the 1980s, pre-production plastic pellets in North Sea fulmars have decreased by ∼75%, while user plastics varied without a strong overall change. Similar trends were found in net-collected floating plastic debris in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre, with a ∼75% decrease in plastic pellets and no obvious trend in user plastic. The decreases in pellets suggest that changes in litter input are rapidly visible in the environment not only close to presumed sources, but also far from land. Floating plastic debris is rapidly “lost” from the ocean surface to other as-yet undetermined sinks in the marine environment.
  • Article
    (American Meteorological Society, 2014-12) Leslie, William R. ; Karnauskas, Kristopher B. ; Witting, Jan H.
  • Article
    Oligotyping reveals community level habitat selection within the genus Vibrio
    (Frontiers Media, 2014-11-13) Schmidt, Victor T. ; Reveillaud, Julie ; Zettler, Erik R. ; Mincer, Tracy J. ; Murphy, Leslie G. ; Amaral-Zettler, Linda A.
    The genus Vibrio is a metabolically diverse group of facultative anaerobic bacteria, common in aquatic environments and marine hosts. The genus contains several species of importance to human health and aquaculture, including the causative agents of human cholera and fish vibriosis. Vibrios display a wide variety of known life histories, from opportunistic pathogens to long-standing symbionts with individual host species. Studying Vibrio ecology has been challenging as individual species often display a wide range of habitat preferences, and groups of vibrios can act as socially cohesive groups. Although strong associations with salinity, temperature and other environmental variables have been established, the degree of habitat or host specificity at both the individual and community levels is unknown. Here we use oligotyping analyses in combination with a large collection of existing Vibrio 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene sequence data to reveal patterns of Vibrio ecology across a wide range of environmental, host, and abiotic substrate associated habitats. Our data show that individual taxa often display a wide range of habitat preferences yet tend to be highly abundant in either substrate-associated or free-living environments. Our analyses show that Vibrio communities share considerable overlap between two distinct hosts (i.e., sponge and fish), yet are distinct from the abiotic plastic substrates. Lastly, evidence for habitat specificity at the community level exists in some habitats, despite considerable stochasticity in others. In addition to providing insights into Vibrio ecology across a broad range of habitats, our study shows the utility of oligotyping as a facile, high-throughput and unbiased method for large-scale analyses of publically available sequence data repositories and suggests its wide application could greatly extend the range of possibilities to explore microbial ecology.
  • Article
    Gooseneck barnacles (Lepas spp.) ingest microplastic debris in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre
    (PeerJ, 2013-10-22) Goldstein, Miriam C. ; Goodwin, Deborah S.
    Substantial quantities of small plastic particles, termed “microplastic,” have been found in many areas of the world ocean, and have accumulated in particularly high densities on the surface of the subtropical gyres. While plastic debris has been documented on the surface of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) since the early 1970s, the ecological implications remain poorly understood. Organisms associated with floating objects, termed the “rafting assemblage,” are an important component of the NPSG ecosystem. These objects are often dominated by abundant and fast-growing gooseneck barnacles (Lepas spp.), which predate on plankton and larval fishes at the sea surface. To assess the potential effects of microplastic on the rafting community, we examined the gastrointestinal tracts of 385 barnacles collected from the NPSG for evidence of plastic ingestion. We found that 33.5% of the barnacles had plastic particles present in their gastrointestinal tract, ranging from one plastic particle to a maximum of 30 particles. Particle ingestion was positively correlated to capitulum length, and no blockage of the stomach or intestines was observed. The majority of ingested plastic was polyethylene, with polypropylene and polystyrene also present. Our results suggest that barnacle ingestion of microplastic is relatively common, with unknown trophic impacts on the rafting community and the NPSG ecosystem.
  • Article
    The Equatorial Undercurrent and TAO sampling bias from a decade at SEA
    (American Meteorological Society, 2014-09) Leslie, William R. ; Karnauskas, Kristopher B.
    The NOAA Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) moored array has, for three decades, been a valuable resource for monitoring and forecasting El Niño–Southern Oscillation and understanding physical oceanographic as well as coupled processes in the tropical Pacific influencing global climate. Acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) measurements by TAO moorings provide benchmarks for evaluating numerical simulations of subsurface circulation including the Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC). Meanwhile, the Sea Education Association (SEA) has been collecting data during repeat cruises to the central equatorial Pacific Ocean (160°–126°W) throughout the past decade that provide useful cross validation and quantitative insight into the potential for stationary observing platforms such as TAO to incur sampling biases related to the strength of the EUC. This paper describes some essential sampling characteristics of the SEA dataset, compares SEA and TAO velocity measurements in the vicinity of the EUC, shares new insight into EUC characteristics and behavior only observable in repeat cross-equatorial sections, and estimates the sampling bias incurred by equatorial TAO moorings in their estimates of the velocity and transport of the EUC. The SEA high-resolution ADCP dataset compares well with concurrent TAO measurements (RMSE = 0.05 m s−1; R2 = 0.98), suggests that the EUC core meanders sinusoidally about the equator between ±0.4° latitude, and reveals a mean sampling bias of equatorial measurements (e.g., TAO) of the EUC’s zonal velocity of −0.14 ± 0.03 m s−1 as well as a ~10% underestimation of EUC volume transport. A bias-corrected monthly record and climatology of EUC strength at 140°W for 1990–2010 is presented.
  • Article
    Distribution of surface plastic debris in the eastern Pacific Ocean from an 11-Year data set
    (American Chemical Society, 2014-04-07) Law, Kara L. ; Moret-Ferguson, Skye E. ; Goodwin, Deborah S. ; Zettler, Erik R. ; DeForce, Emelia A. ; Kukulka, Tobias ; Proskurowski, Giora
    We present an extensive survey of floating plastic debris in the eastern North and South Pacific Oceans from more than 2500 plankton net tows conducted between 2001 and 2012. From these data we defined an accumulation zone (25 to 41°N, 130 to 180°W) in the North Pacific subtropical gyre that closely corresponds to centers of accumulation resulting from the convergence of ocean surface currents predicted by several oceanographic numerical models. Maximum plastic concentrations from individual surface net tows exceeded 106 pieces km–2, with concentrations decreasing with increasing distance from the predicted center of accumulation. Outside the North Pacific subtropical gyre the median plastic concentration was 0 pieces km–2. We were unable to detect a robust temporal trend in the data set, perhaps because of confounded spatial and temporal variability. Large spatiotemporal variability in plastic concentration causes order of magnitude differences in summary statistics calculated over short time periods or in limited geographic areas. Utilizing all available plankton net data collected in the eastern Pacific Ocean (17.4°S to 61.0°N; 85.0 to 180.0°W) since 1999, we estimated a minimum of 21 290 t of floating microplastic.