Effects of local and global change on an inland sea: the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada

Global changes manifest themselves in coastal waters depending on local oceanography and ecosystems. In this paper, we consider the Strait of Georgia as a case study. After examining physical and chemical processes and trends, we discuss consequences of change on geochemical cycling and biota. Several components of the system are vulnerable. Declines in pH and O2 of basin waters, partly imported from the shelf and partly supported by carbon cycling within the strait, could reduce benthic and pelagic habitat. Sea level rise and storms will interact with coastal development to place critical habitat, such as low-lying estuaries, intertidal zones and mudflats, at risk. The decrease and earlier peak in zooplankton biomass may lead to changes in the food web that cascade to higher trophic levels such as fish and birds. Anadromous fish, already showing declines, are vulnerable to ocean regime shifts, increasing river temperatures, habitat destruction, harvesting and contaminants. For southern resident killer whales Orcinus orca, a species at risk, decline in Chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha together with marine traffic and biomagnifying contaminants will lead to extirpation if no action is taken. Some stressors can be controlled only through international action to mitigate climate change. However, we have local control of fishing, habitat destruction, release of some contaminants and, to some extent, river flow and temperature. Acting to control these stressors will support resilience of biota in the face of inevitable global changes.



Johannessen, S. C. & Macdonald, R. W., 2009. Effects of local and global change on an inland sea: the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada. Climate Research 40: 1-21. Article.

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