Integrated Ecosystem Climate-based Forecasting
With climate change, marine species and ecosystems around the world are affected by impacts such as warming ocean temperatures and loss of sea ice. These impacts are visible in the Bering Sea, posing risks within local ecosystems, species, and communities. To assess these impacts, the ACLIM project uses sophisticated models to make predictions of varying climate conditions and ecosystem and human community responses. This helps inform fishery managers of potential risks so they can better evaluate adaptation strategies.
Complex Definitions: Climate Adaptation
It's common to hear the word “adaptation” alongside climate research. However, it can be difficult to determine what adapting to climate change means exactly. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines adaptation in natural systems as “the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects; human intervention may facilitate this.” Using this definition, there are numerous ways to apply adaptation in terms of ecosystem management.
Defining climate adaptation can be tricky and is often open for discussion. However, during my interviews, researchers in ACLIM embraced the complexity.
Dr. Anne Hollowed was more than excited to discuss what the world of climate adaptation research looks like today. She cited various ongoing projects and how their work is advancing adaptation to respond to changes in marine ecosystems. For example, there is an international team of scientists who are assessing the concept of resilience and what it means for fisheries.
“It’s the ocean temperature, and the prey availability, and all of these complex interactions,” she said. “And that’s what ACLIM is really all about – trying to define what is the scope for adaptation? And how does it differ across species?,” she said.
While Dr. Hollowed acknowledged she is not an expert in adaptation research, she is nonetheless enthusiastic for future developments in the subject.
Adapting Management For Adapting Climates
For Cody Szuwalski, a research biologist working on crab assessments in the Bering Sea, defining climate adaptation is the focus of his new paper. He looks at how managers are exploring new management approaches to respond to changes in crab stock abundance due to warming ocean temperatures.
Cody stressed a couple of key themes to achieve a balance between economics and ecology while trying to conserve and protect resources impacted by a changing climate. The path to find that balance is a big task, but a task that Cody and other ACLIM researchers are up to.
[Climate Adaptation is] about building a management system that when a crisis happens, it’ll be able to respond appropriately - Kerim Aydin, Alaska Fisheries Science Center
Kerim Aydin, a supervisory research fisheries biologist with NOAA Fisheries, defined climate adaptation from the ACLIM project and fisheries management perceptive.
“It’s really about building a management system that when a crisis happens, it’ll be able to respond appropriately.”
Complex Models For Complex Problems
He described the complexity of the regional climate models that are needed to take on the challenge. He also stressed the importance of engaging a variety of perspectives and information to support adaptive decision making and fisheries management. “It takes trust and dedication to the science behind it.”
His current view on where the team is at on climate adaptation?
“We aim to have a system in place that can sort of roll with the punches as they come.”
While climate research continues around the world, the adaptation goal here in the Bering Sea is to help management make decisions as the climate continues to change.