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foraminifera, Tully Research Ship, Scientists working, fish, seal
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Project Overview | Executive Summary


Executive Summary

High resolution holocene paleoclimatic and paleoceanographic records from small lakes and anoxic basins along the British Columbia coast.

Earth's climate is highly variable, and this natural variability must be understood if reliable predictions of future climate states are to be made. Geological and historical records from coastal B.C. provide clear evidence that the regional climate has oscillated on a variety of time-scales during the Holocene interglacial (0-10,000 years before present). The present climate of the west coast of Canada is influenced by the Aleutian Low, the Jet Stream, and El Niño/La Niña, which are interdependent and have sub-decadal cycles. Superimposed in these cycles are less well understood, regionally modified, longer-scale events operating on a global scale. The interactions of these climate-forcing phenomena determine whether there will be costly droughts or flooding on land, and influence recruitment to many BC fisheries. This is because changes in the wind system influence oceanic upwelling, and alongshore drift, which can result in modifications to plankton distribution and abundance. The purpose of this research is to identify past changes in atmospheric and ocean conditions, and the relative timing of these changes, over the last 2,000 years from the sedimentary record in coastal BC inlets and lakes. This information is required by policy makers attempting to recognize and adapt to anthropogenic climate change. Recognition of the natural climatic cycles affecting the coastal ocean will also enable the commercial marine fishing industry to respond more strategically to natural variations in fish stocks.

Annually deposited, finely laminated sediments laid down in inlets with little or no bottom water oxygen content along southern Vancouver Island, contain a high-resolution record of climate change and paleoproductivity in the Coastal Upwelling Domain throughout the late Holocene, and have been previously studied by the coinvestigators. A reconnaissance cruise aboard the CCGS Vector in August 2000, carried out in anticipation of this CFACS application, found additional inlets with annually laminated sediments in Smith, Seymore, and Belize inlets and Frederick Sound, in the Coastal Transition Domain. We will sample all these sites, together with adjacent lakes, and utilize a combination of oceanographic, sedimentological, geochemical, and micropaleontological methods to identify and correlate long and short-term climate cycles for the entire region, impossible to resolve with the short, approximately 100-year instrument record. We will also determine the impact of coastal marine climate changes on the productivity and distribution of pelagic fish stocks along the B.C. coast by examining fish scales that are well preserved in core samples.

This project will be carried out by researchers from Carleton Univ., Univ. of Victoria, Univ. of British Columbia, Laval Univ., and McMaster Univ. in cooperation with researchers from the Institute of Ocean Sciences, DFO; Pacific Geoscience Centre (PGC), GSC; Terrain Sciences Division (TSD), GSC, and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), NOAA. The investigators have been in the forefront of paleoceanographic research in their various subdisciplines and most have worked together on a soon to be completed NSERC Strategic Project Grant that emphasized paleoproductivity in the Coastal Upwelling Domain. Principal Investigator Patterson will administer the CFCAS grant, but other members of the team will take leading roles according to expertise. Due to the complex interdisciplinary (micropaleontological/ sedimentological/ geochemical/ cyclostratigraphic/ oceanographic) nature of this proposal, Patterson will also devote a significant portion of his time to running the project. Effective communication will be essential to monitoring the progress of such a multidisciplinary project, and will comprise several group meetings, extensive use of e-mail, and posting of collected data to a project www site.

Several research cruises are planned over the course of the grant to visit these anoxic inlets and coastal lakes to collect cores, redeploy sediment traps and moored sensors, as well as collect seismic and other oceanic telemetry using DFO provided ships, the CCGS Vector and CCGS JP Tully. DFO will also provide a wide array of oceanographic sensors, sampling devices, and technical assistance. PGC will provide access to powerful subbottom profiling equipment and infrastructure for us to core coastal lakes where corroborative continental climate records are archived, in addition to facility use and technical assistance. PMEL/NOAA will provide loan of moored sediment traps for the duration of the project. TSD/GSC will provide access to their core X-ray facility.






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