Climate Vulnerability Assessment
NOAA Fisheries, with the help of the NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research's Earth System Research Laboratory, developed this methodology for studying fish species' vulnerability to expected changes in climate and ocean conditions.
Climate-related changes in ocean ecosystems are affecting the nation’s marine species and the people, businesses, and communities that depend on them. Warming oceans, rising seas, and ocean acidification are affecting marine life and also disrupting fisheries and local economies. These impacts are expected to increase with continued changes in the planet’s climate system. To help reduce impacts and increase the resilience of marine resources, we are assessing the vulnerability of fish species to changing climate and ocean conditions.
Purpose of the Climate Vulnerability Assessment
Scientists are linking changes in ocean temperatures to shifting fish species distributions and abundances in many marine ecosystems, and these impacts are expected to increase in the future. To respond to and prepare for the current and future changes in climate and oceans, fisheries managers and scientists need tools to identify what fishery resources may be most vulnerable in a changing climate and why. By providing this information, the methodology can help fisheries managers and scientists find ways to reduce risks and impacts on fisheries and the people who depend on them. Scientists can use the results to identify gaps and help prioritize research. Managers can use the results to identify potential impacts and start discussions on ways to reduce them, and thus increase resilience of fish species, fisheries, and fishing-dependent communities.
The methodology is designed to help:
- Show which fish species or stocks may be most vulnerable—or adaptable—to changing climate and ocean conditions.
- Identify what further information is needed to understand and address these risks.
- Provide a basis for considering actions to reduce fish species’ vulnerability.
- Show where more information is needed to understand, track, and respond to that vulnerability.
- Inform priorities for research, monitoring, and modeling.
How It Works
The Vulnerability Assessment Methodology uses information on species’ life histories, species’ distributions, and projected future climate and ocean conditions to estimate vulnerability—specifically, how climate-related changes could affect fish species’ abundance, and to some extent, their distribution. The results are intended to guide research on possible climate impacts on fish species or stocks and help fisheries decision-makers consider how to prepare for and respond to climate-related changes.
This chart describes the basic steps of a fish species climate vulnerability assessment.
Infographic illustrating the methodology scientists use for the Climate Vulnerability Assessment.
The methodology is only relevant for fish and invertebrate species; we are developing a method for marine mammals and sea turtles. More details are available on the methodology process, data requirements, and implementation (PDF, 54 pages).
Where the Methodology Has Been Used
Our scientists recently applied this new methodology to 82 fish and invertebrate species in the Northeast. The methodology is also being used to assess the climate vulnerability of fish and invertebrate stocks along the West Coast and in the Bering Sea.