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Scientists crack the black box of coastal ecosystems

DENVER, CO Scientists along the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California have cracked the black box of coastal ecosystems, revealing the inner workings of the near-shore marine environment. Working on a scale from microscopic fish larvae to the 1200 mile long California Current that sweeps the west coast of the United States, an interdisciplinary team of over 100 ecologists, oceanographers, geneticists and engineers is beginning to answer some of the most urgent questions about how to predict and manage coastal ecosystems and marine populations. The researchers' new findings were released today at a noon press conference and scientific symposium at the AAAS Meeting in Denver.

"Coastal oceans are under intense pressure due to overfishing, coastal development and land-based pollution. Lack of understanding of the dynamics of coastal ecosystems has seriously impeded management and policy efforts. Our new findings will greatly aid ocean protection, restoration, and sustainable use," says principal investigator Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University. "Coastal zones are not only home to over 50% of Americans they are also home to a great majority of commercial and non-commercial marine species, as well as pivotal for industrial and recreational activities. The grand challenge is to use coastal oceans without misusing them."

"It's ironic that we've known so little about this critical area," says Steve Palumbi of Stanford's Hopkins Marine Station. "We know more about the productivity of the open ocean 1000 miles off Hawaii, than we do 100 yards off the west coast."

This near-shore zone, extending approximately 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) out from shore, is often called "the bad zone" because its three dimensional nature, complex currents, shallow water and high wave energy have stymied oceanographers and their large vessels. Now, scientists from PISCO (the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans) which includes Oregon
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Contact: Jessica Brown
jbrown@seaweb.org
202-497-8375
SeaWeb
15-Feb-2003


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