Analyzing the impact of temperature variability from climate change on ecological community structure and subsequent influences on fisheries management
The Northeast Shelf Regional Ecosystem (NSRE) is experiencing some of the highest rates of ocean temperature change in the world. High-resolution climate models have predicted future temperatures may be higher than originally estimated from lower resolution models. These changes in temperature will manifest as increases in mean temperature (i.e., long-term decadal temperature change) and temperature variability (i.e., temperature fluctuations on shorter time scales). Changes in mean temperature are already causing shifts in abundance and distribution of species, and influencing interspecific interactions such as competition and predation, and fisheries yields. The impacts of temperature variability are less clear, although some studies have demonstrated shifts in the phenology of key life history events. This project aims to quantify changes in community interactions from changes in mean temperature and temperature variability within the NSRE, and to understand how they propagate uncertainty through the coupled social-ecological system from the ecological community to the human community dependent on these resources. We will quantify interspecific changes using ecological models that build on available estimates of current and future suitable thermal habitat from climate envelope models for demersal species on the Northeast Shelf. We will then couple these outputs to economic harvest functions to quantify the effect of changing yields under climate change. We will simulate how fishers respond to environmental variability and ecological uncertainty, and use management strategy evaluation to account for fisher behavior and risk tolerance. A greater understanding of the impacts of variability on ecological communities and stakeholders will allow more effective implementation of sustainable fisheries management in a rapidly changing climate.