Last day of dives before heading back. We hit two sites on either side of the northern head of Appledore. It’s a remarkable break, as on one side you have fairly decent expsore to waves from the West. On the other, things are fairly protected. So, there’s a strong physical gradient. And, though perhaps just a few hundred meters apart, the two sites could not be more different. At the first site, the photos didn’t come out terribly well, but this gives you a general sense –
It was Halosiphon as far as the eye could see – like diving in a bed of furry ropes. Or very thin muppet arms. No, wait, that’s just odd… although it would fit nicely in Dark Crystal or Labyrinth.
Lots of adorable cunner swimming about, but, man, churned up. A little Heterosiphonia about, but, not too bad.
Then we rounded the corner. And saw…
It’s like somebody defauntated the rumpus room and decided to give the entire subtidal a nice shag carpet. I mean, sure, it hides the stains, but…
More than that, the site was quite bouldery. But what invertebrates were on the boulders?
Oh, look! It’s my old friend Didemnum vexillum from the Left Coast. It’s here, in force. I’ve seen spots of it all week, but, nothing like the giant area covering colonies of the Bodega Harbor jetty or the docks. And yet, here it is. Sure, there’s some Desmerestia thrown in for good measure, but, more or less, it’s all invasives, all the time down here.
The second site of the day was a surprise. 10 years ago, Smith’s Cove was a mixed mussel bed and urchin barren. Previous, it has been a Codium meadow. Now… It’s just a giant red algal carpet. Wall to wall. Thick, easily fragmenting, ubiquitous, invasive red Heterosiphonia japonica. Also, big tufts of Ulva. And some other bushy filamentous algae scattered about, along with a few crabs.
What a weird landscape. What is that red carpet doing? Smothering things? Creating habitat for mobile invertebrates? Providing food, or is it not that edible? The reef was like this as far as we swam and looked around – hundreds of square meters. Weird.
Day 2 of dives with Sarah out at SML. Today we hit two sites that were quite different – both from each other and from Norwegian Cove the other day. The Ledges are in the channel between Appledore and Smuttynose, so, they get good flow running through. This was key, as it blew sediments from the previous day’s storm out fairly quickly. And viz was really quite nice. While it used to be a barren (at least on one side) 10 years ago, it appears that it’s now a mix of kelps and Desmarestia with some Chondrus, filamentous reds, and others thrown in for good measure.
A nice mixed algal assemblage. And a mix of kelp ages and sizes.
Indeed, some parts were super kelpy, although, not dominated by large adults. The mix of sizes was fairly astounding, even where thing were at high densities.
Note all of the little guys hanging about. I mean, it is still early June, so, it may be recovery. But how cute are these little ruffled kelpies!
Note all of the holes you see, though. The site was also packed with little snails like Lacuna vincta that appeared to be doing quite a job on the kelps.
What will this mean for later in the summer? Particularly with Heterosiphonia around in patches.
All in all, a nice site to sample. More soon on Smith’s Cove. Which was…
Well, today was it. After a 2 year hiatus behind my computer screen, my skin now softer and more delicate from its soothing rays, I hopped back in the water FOR SCIENCE! Not only that, but it was my return to dry suit diving. Oh, dry suit diving. I really didn’t miss you and your weird buoyancy tricks (note to self, get ankle weights, as old ones have desintegrated).
It was a great day, despite feeling kinda like the first day back at school. Ted (lab manager) and I came out to SML to work with a fantastic undergrad I’m advising for the summer, as well as do some site scouting of our own. The weather report said that things would turn awful in the afternoon/early evening (and was right), so, a morning dive on the backside of Appledore was just the thing.
This truck is loaded WITH SCIENCE!
Ted ready to go
We were there to help Sarah census the invasive Heterosiphonia japonica to look at its distribution with respect to a depth and exposure gradient (see also this kick butt paper by Christine Newton et al.). And the backside of Appledore is quite exposed. The transects we were sampling are next to a spot in the intertidal that got wiped bare by this winter’s storms.
Photo by Ted of Sarah (L) and I about to plop down our first transect.
What intrigued me about the transects was two things. I remember this area being super-kelpy. Indeed, the wave exposure limited Codium back when that alga was the big bad (I’ve heard it’s quite rare here, and in a quick checkout at The Cribs, I only saw 3 individuals). But now…well, there are some kelps, but, mostly, it’s red and brown filamentous algae. A lot of Desmerestia viridis to be sure, but a lot of red and brown puffiness. That, and a lot more Chondrus. I mean, we were fairly shallow, but, still. Interesting.
Photo by Sarah of one of her transects
Not a lot of Heterosiphonia, though. It’s going to be interesting to see how Sarah’s project turns out. Some sites have been heavy with it, some light.
I’m just glad to be back in, and seeing how the place has changed. Steneck’s Flips & Locks paper was an interesting update on how this system is doing. I’m going to be curious to browse around and try and take the big whole community perspective I honed at the SBC LTER and see what there is to see here.
A great photo by Sarah of a school I totally missed.
So, today, I’m going to catch a ferry out to the Shoals Marine Lab. I’m just going to be out for a day to meet with the undergrad intern I’m mentoring. I’ll be back later this summer to work with her and setup some permanent monitoring transects.
I have to be honest, this is one of those moments in my life where I am watching a dream come through. I went to SML in the summer of 1999 to take some classes. It changed everything for me. I cannot recount the number of paths that opened up due to that summer than I have run down, higgledy-piggledy. To return now as a mentor and researcher? To have the chance to really learn the secrets of the sea around the Isles of Shoals? To come back with new eyes after a decade of developing as a scientist? I’m having a hard time expressing my excitement and joy.
Rather than kvell any more about the place and my excitement, here’s a video from the participants of the Underwater Research Course at SML (which, also, totally formative to who I am as a scientist – thanks, Jim!) I think it conveys a lot of what I could say, but in images and video that’s much more telling.
Everyone has been pretty shocked by the devastation wreaked by Sandy. Here in New England, we also got a Nor’easter following a few days later. That’s a lot of intense storm action in a short period of time.
What I found while just walking about on the shoreline was pretty incredible. It was Scallapocalypse.
Let me include a video here of what one saw looking across the beach so you can get a sense of what was going on.
This was taken in Madaket. It was a bit more dramatic in other parts of the island – because scallop fishermen had come on shore, scooped up the scallops (many of which were the seed for next year, and too small for now) and taken them back out to the scallop grounds. Here’s what things looked like by the lab.
All over, the scallop grounds had come to shore.
But the huge flux of biomass onto shore was impressive. And it wasn’t just scallops, but a ton of seagrass as well, much of which was matting over fringing salt marshes.
Still, the huge amount of energy and nutrients coming into the shoreline ecosystem driven by storms gave me a lot of pause. I mean, those scallops that weren’t saved did end up in the coastal foodweb. Birds were definitely looking fat and happy, and we’d find piles like this with flocks of birds nearby:
The whole thing really got my brain going, with two big questions
1) So, what is the fate of all of this influx of stuff into the shoreline? How will the influx of energy alter the structure and dymaics of the food web? Will the smothering of the marsh matter? It is winter, when things are slower. How quickly will everything be decomposed? Will the effects be lagged until the springtime? Or will they affect the system now? I think of Gary Polis’s work on how food web structure is shaped by the influx of energy on small islands. I know this is a BIG island, but, still, the point stands, this is a big flux of biomass and nitrogen. And it’s not just plant matter, but animal protein.
2) How will climate change alter the frequency of this subsidy? What would the consequences of a regime with regular small subsidies and occasional big ones versus regular big subsidies be? This stems largely from my thinking about the increase in the size of the ‘largest storm of the year’ in California coastal systems that’s been the basis of my previous work. But, models and analysis from the Knutson group seem to show that, while hurricanes and cyclones in the Atlantic aren’t getting more frequent, the size of each one is getting bigger. So, similar pattern. If small subsidies are coming in every year now due to the occasional passing hurricane or Nor’easter, but the size of those same storms in the future is going to get larger, then having this kind of big Scallapocalypse/subsidy could get more frequent. Particular as northern Atlantic waters get warmer (which they are – Nixon 2004), this could be an interesting and perhaps not so well investigated climate effect – the increased strength of coupling between marine and terrestrial food webs.
Oh, and random 3) What role will invasive algae play in increasing the impacts of storms on the amount of material coming on land? This may lead nowhere, but I noticed a lot of material (not scallops) that had washed on land had the invasive Codium fragile attached to it. I know that subtidal kelps can do this to mussels as well (Witman’s work), but there’s no kelp here. Is Codium becoming a drag (har har) and increasing the energy and nutrient flow from sea to land?
All in all, an interesting trip with a lot to chew on for future research. And a great setting!
Knutson, T. R., J. L. McBride, J. Chan, K. Emanuel, G. Holland, C. Landsea, I. Held, J. P. Kossin, A. K. Srivastava, and M. Sugi. 2010. Tropical cyclones and climate change. Nature Climate Change 3:157–163.
Nixon, S. W., S. Granger, B. A. Buckley, M. Lamont, and B. Rowell. 2004. A one hundred and seventeen year coastal water temperature record from Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Estuaries 27:397–404.
Polis, G. A., and S. D. Hurd. 1995. Extraordinarily high spider densities on islands: flow of energy from the marine to terrestrial food webs and the absence of predation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 92:4382–4386.
Polis, G. A., W. B. Anderson, and R. D. Holt. 1997. Toward an integration of landscape and food web ecology: the dynamics of spatially subsidized food webs. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 28:289–316.
Witman, J. D., and T. H. Suchanek. 1984. Mussels in Flow – Drag and Dislodgement by Epizoans. Marine Ecology Progress Series 16:259–268.