Brian Bylhouwer

Bachelor’s of Science (Physics), University of Prince Edward Island

E-mail: bbylhouw@sfu.ca

Supervisor: Dr. Karen Kohfeld

Areas of Research Interest: Freshwater Management, Coastal Marine Ecosystems, Climate Change

Master’s Project Title: Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coastal Marine Ecosystems

Description: Recent estimates suggest that the pH of the ocean has decreased by approximately 0.1 units since pre-industrial times in response to increased CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere. Over the next century, anthropogenic emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere are expected to further decrease the pH of the ocean by 0.3-0.4 units. As pH decreases, the saturation level of calcium carbonate in the ocean also decreases. Reduced calcium carbonate concentrations lead to shell dissolution, reduced growth rates, and other negative physiological effects in a variety of marine organisms, such as plankton, corals, mussels and clams.
Many calcifying organisms inhabit coastal areas such as the Strait of Georgia in British Columbia, and supply many ecosystem services and support commercial fisheries. Unfortunately, the impact of ocean acidification on coastal ecosystems is poorly understood. Changes in the viability and abundance of calcifying organisms which are sensitive to pH could lead to disruptions at various levels of the marine food chain.
Brian’s research will examine which marine inputs are strongest in determining the pH of the Strait of Georgia. Comparisons will be made with existing research on the sensitivity of various organisms and future predictions of ocean pH to determine which species inhabiting the Straight of Georgia are most at risk.