Aquatic Ecosystems and Fisheries
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Current research at the Climate Impacts Group (CIG) on PNW marine/aquatic ecosystems and climate includes:
Salmon and Climate
- Effects of Climate on Juvenile Salmon Survival in the Freshwater Environment. Changing hydrologic conditions associated with climate change have the potential to affect freshwater survival of Pacific Northwest salmonids via a number of impact pathways. Habitat conditions mediate the effects of climate, however, so neighboring populations with differing habitat conditions may differ in their responses to climate change. Here, we explore potential differential responses of the viability of four salmon populations in the Salmon River (ID) and Wenatchee River (WA) basins.
- Quantitative Tools for Evaluating the Effects of Climate Change on the Population Dynamics of Pacific Salmon. Climate variations during the 20th century are now a widely recognized driver of Pacific salmon production. In all likelihood, future changes in climate will continue to structure the population dynamics of Pacific salmon. At this time, however, there is a distinct lack of stock specific information on climate impacts over the entire life-cycle of Pacific salmon as most studies concentrate on either the marine or freshwater environments. To date, nobody has explored the interplay of climate change in the oceans, atmosphere, and continental land mass on the population dynamics of Pacific salmon. Therefore, quantitative models linking existing climate change scenarios to changes in Pacific salmon demographics over their entire life cycle are now needed to assess future climate impacts on the viability of salmon populations throughout their range.
- Salmon MALBEC: Modeling Studies to Support Conservation Planning for Pacific Salmon. We have developed a working model of the North Pacific salmon ecosystem that serves as a policy gaming tool with potential to explore the impacts of climate change, hatchery and harvest policies, and changes in freshwater habitat productive capacity at the scale of the North Pacific Ocean. The model is supported by a data base that includes annual run-sizes, catches, escapements, and hatchery releases for a total of 146 regional stock groups of hatchery and wild pink, sockeye, and chum salmon around the Pacific Rim for the period 1950-2002. These data show that hatchery salmon contribute significantly to overall abundance of salmon in some regions and that hatchery chum salmon abundance has exceeded that of wild chum salmon since the early 1980s. For this historical period, various hypotheses about density-dependent interactions in the marine environment are evaluated based on the goodness-of-fit between simulated and observed annual run-sizes.
- Climate Change Impacts on Key Aspects of Freshwater Salmon Habitat in Washington State. This study evaluates the sensitivity of Washington State's freshwater habitat of Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) to climate change. Our analysis focuses on summertime stream temperatures, seasonal low flows, and changes in the frequency and magnitude of peak flow events because these physical factors are likely to be key pressure points for many salmon populations in Washington State.
Climate Impacts on Coastal Marine Fisheries
- Improving Rebuilding Plans for Overfished West Coast Fish Stocks through Inclusion of Climate Information. The Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act mandates that overfished fish stocks be rebuilt in as short a time as possible. A key component of a rebuilding plan is a technical rebuilding analysis. Rebuilding analyses determine the trade-off between the time for the stock to recover to the population size at which Maximum Sustainable Yield is achieved, BMSY, and the fishing mortality during the period of rebuilding. However, the results of rebuilding analyses may be impacted by climatic regime shifts that impact both stock productivity and BMSY.
- Anthropogenic Stresses on Marine Ecosystems. This project is looking to develop a place-based research program in the Northeast Pacific focusing on impact of two major stressors in the NE Pacific: 1) ocean acidification, and 2) changing ocean thermal structure. An ocean acidification workshop was held at Friday Harbor Labs (San Juan Islands, WA) on August 25-28, 2008 to bring biological oceanographers into the problem of acidification, and to engage in planning the design of a mesocosm experimental facility at Friday Harbor Labs as a national research facility on acidification.
Climate Impacts on Estuaries
- Reconstructing Historical Baselines of the Puget Sound Groundfish and Invertebrate Communities. Although human activity has impinged on the Puget Sound ecosystem for years, we have limited understanding about the long-term dynamics of this ecosystem and the roles of human activity therein. This fundamental lack of understanding is now widely acknowledged to be a major impediment to restoring Puget Sound. We seek to collect, organize, and analyze all of the environmental data collected in Puget Sound over the past century, evaluate the cumulative impacts of human activities on this ecosystem, and identify indicator species that can be used to monitor the effectiveness of restoration efforts.
- Climate Impacts on Harmful Algal Blooms in the PNW. Paralytic shellfish toxins are produced by the harmful dinoflagellate species Alexandrium catenella and accumulate in filter feeding shellfish. Exceptionally toxic events have previously been attributed to large-scale patterns of climate variability, such as El Niņo events.
- Climate Impacts on Marine Forage Fish and Jellyfish. The pelagic ecosystem of Puget Sound is tightly coupled with the seasonal dynamics of freshwater runoff and thermal stratification, both of which have direct bearing on primary production which quickly travels up the food chain. Forage fish represent a key species in the transfer of energy from small zooplankton to larger fish, marine birds and mammals so identifying potential responses to climate signals is a key priority to support an ecosystem-based management of Puget Sound.
Aquatic ecosystem research at the CIG benefits from externally funded, climate-related research projects and programs that key CIG research personnel conduct or are otherwise affiliated with, including the following:
- Future Climate of the California Current System
- Coastal Upwelling: Past, Present and Future