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Rising water temperatures endanger health of coastal ecosystems

"Rising ocean temperatures are changing the way coastal ecosystems-and probably terrestrial ecosystems, too-process nitrogen," said Hollibaugh, Distinguished Research Professor of Marine Sciences in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "Much of the global nitrogen cycle takes place in the coastal zone."

Hollibaugh and researcher Sylvia Schaefer found midsummer peaks in concentrations of nitrite alongside massive increases in numbers of the microorganisms that produce it in the coastal waters off Sapelo Island, Georgia, in data collected over the course of eight years. Although most researchers believe nitrite accumulation is a consequence of oxygen deficiency in a marine environment, Hollibaugh and Schaefer thought something else had to be driving the accumulation.

Our researchers on campus and at the Skidaway Institute are working to inform people, businesses and governments along the coast and beyond about the many implications of warming waters on the delicate ecology of our barrier islands and the oceans that feed them.

Image: Marine biologists James Hollibaugh and Sylvia Schaefer, by Andrew Davis Tucker for UGA.

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