Changing Ocean Biological Systems (COBS)

This project evolved from SCOR WG 149 on “Changing Ocean Biological Systems (COBS): how will biota respond to a changing ocean?” to become a SCOR activity without a fixed completion date. The purpose of the project is to promote new methods for assessing the effects of multiple environmental factors acting on organisms at the same time.  The project resulted from the realization by scientists working on single environmental factors (e.g. pH, temperature, oxygen) that single-factor experiments were not realistic to changes occurring in the ocean.

The project is co-chaired by Philip Boyd (Australia) and Sinead Collins (UK).

The Terms of Reference of COBS as a project are:

1. Develop open-access teaching and learning resources for educators and researchers based on the Best Practice Guide ( ) and MEDDLE ( ). These resources will be used to train scientists in multiple driver research in coordination with existing programs, e.g. MSc programmes, summer schools and conference-affiliated training sessions. An online-only program will be developed to reach researchers who cannot attend in-person training.

2. Advocate coordination and harmonisation of experimental approaches by providing data-based guidance through existing structures such as the GRC (ocean Global Change Biology workshop), IOC (UN Decade of Ocean Science) on how to maximise overlap between different experimental approaches and analysis to allow tighter intercomparison.

3. Progress the science towards a more holistic approach to address how multiple drivers will reshuffle marine ecosystems at a decadal scale. To do this, we will develop a strong conceptual framework around a subset of key questions that will be determined by surveying the ocean global change biology community as broadly as possible. This will allow us to bridge disjoints between models, experiments and observations. This framework will be published as a high-profile publication, and survey results will be made available on our website and publicized at meetings.

4. Publish a series of short articles in both the scientific media and with scientific journalists to disseminate the challenges and opportunities surrounding multiple drivers and ecosystems.

5. Link to societal questions, such as food security, by expanding multiple driver research to include higher trophic levels. This will be done, in part, by engaging with IOC-endorsed and other initiatives to promote an interdisciplinary process-based approach linking observations, models, and experiments within the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.