Marine Ecosystem Responses to Climate-Associated Remote Forcing from the Labrador Sea

C. Greene, Pershing, Monger, D. Mountain (NMFS), Hakkinen

During the past decade, the US GLOBEC Northwest Atlantic/Georges Bank Program has made significant advances in our understanding of the linkages between climate and marine ecosystems in the Northwest Atlantic. This research has shown that physical circulation patterns are responsive to phase changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and that physical and biological responses to NAO forcing in the Scotian Shelf (SS), Gulf of Maine (GOM) and Georges Bank (GB) ecosystems exhibit some degree of predictability. Here, we propose to assess the role of remote upstream forcing from the Labrador Sea on ecosystems processes throughout the Northwest Atlantic. In previous studies, we have provided evidence for the hypothesis that remote forcing from the Labrador Sea, as mediated by the Coupled Slope Water System (CSWS), impacts ecosystem processes in the SS/GOM/GB region. In the proposed studies, we will expand the scope of this earlier research to examine the following hypotheses:

1. Remote forcing of ecosystem processes in the SS/GOM/GB region is mediated not only by the CSWS but also through the enhanced transport of lower salinity shelf waters derived from upstream sources, including the Labrador Sea.

2. Remote forcing from the Labrador Sea impacts ecosystem processes not only in the SS/GOM/GB region but also in the Middle Atlantic Bight (MAB). Our research team will explore these hypotheses by conducting retrospective analyses of climate, remote-sensing, physical oceanographic, biological oceanographic, and fisheries time-series data. A working group composed of climate scientists, oceanographers, and fisheries scientists from the region will work with the research team to steer the research agenda and assist in the interpretation of results.

Broader Impacts

Assessing the regional impacts of climate variability and change will be one of the greatest scientific challenges of the 21st century. A major goal of our project is to develop a predictive understanding of climate impacts on marine ecosystems in the Northwest Atlantic that will enable us to provide operational input to the managers of living marine resources. By focusing on physical and biological processes with strong links to climate and significant time lags, we anticipate being able to construct models that can forecast such changes with lead times ranging from a few months to as long as two years. Such an operational capability, combined with our close ties to NOAA's Regional Fisheries Science Centers, will enable us to provide that agency's policy makers and resource managers with the means to make better informed decisions affecting both exploited as well as protected marine species. In keeping with our strong commitment to integrating education with research, a significant portion of the funds requested by this proposal will be used to support the training of graduate students.