Giving Compass' Take:

• Kate Wheeling reports that ocean heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense because of climate change, threatening marine ecosystems.

• How can funders work to support efforts to better understand this phenomenon? What does this mean for the future of ocean ecosystems? 

• Learn about efforts to make ocean data available to all

In 2011, Dan Smale was a post-doc in western Australia working on a kelp forest ecology project when water temperatures in the region suddenly spiked. Kelp forests, sea grass meadows, coral reefs, and many of the animals that call these ecosystems home began to die off. For several months, Smale and his colleagues tracked the impacts of the record-breaking water temperatures in western Australia, and began to wonder just how widespread marine heat waves are, and what effects they might be having on marine ecosystems elsewhere in the world. Eventually Smale teamed up with an international team of researchers that included oceanographers, climate modelers, fisheries scientists, and ecologists to find out.

In a study published in Nature Climate Change, Smale, now a research fellow at the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, and his colleagues show that marine heat waves are becoming more frequent and intense, putting extra pressure on ocean ecosystems that are already stressed by climate change.

The study pulled together data from all over the world and across multiple levels of marine ecosystems, allowing the authors to draw broad conclusions about ocean heat waves while highlighting the varied ways the events can affect different organisms. Nick Bond, an associate professor at the University of Washington and the state's climatologist, who was not involved in the paper, called the work an "important milestone" in the study of marine heat waves, notable for its scale and broad conclusions.

Read the full article about KHow Ocean Heat Waves Threaten Marine EcosystemsD by Kate Wheeling at Pacific Standard.