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College of Arts & Sciences
School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment

SEOE Seminar Series, Dr. Rebecca Asch, East Carolina University

Friday, October 13, 2017 -
3:30pm to 4:30pm

Location: Jones 002

"Will climate change result in seasonal mismatches between fish reproduction and plankton blooms? Evidence from the California Current and earth system model projections." 

Phenology refers to the study of seasonal, biological cycles and how they are influenced by weather and climate.  In many ecosystems, warming temperatures are causing phenological events to occur earlier in the year.  However, temperature sensitivity varies across marine organisms, such that seasonal events that previously occurred synchronously are likely to become decoupled under climate change.  In temperate, marine ecosystems, fishes often time reproduction to coincide with plankton blooms.  Greater asynchrony between these events could increase larval fish mortality, reduce recruitment to fisheries, and result in declining fish catches.  This seminar will investigate historical and future changes in the phenology of plankton and fish reproduction using long-term oceanographic time series and the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamic Laboratory’s Earth System Model (GFDL ESM2M).  In the southern California Current, decadal changes in the phenology of 43 species of larval fishes were investigated between 1951-2008.  42% of the species exhibited increasingly early peaks in larval abundance.  Differences in habitat use were observed between species with long-term advances in phenology and a smaller subset of fishes with delayed phenology.  In the second half of this seminar, the GFDL ESM2M model will be used to project changes in the phenology of fishes and phytoplankton globally throughout the 21st century.  Under a high emissions climate change scenario, phytoplankton blooms at latitudes >40° N are projected to occur on average 16.5 days earlier by the end of the 21st century.  For fishes whose spawning phenology is influenced by sea surface temperature (SST) and whose spawning grounds are delineated by fixed geographic features, shifts in phenology occurred twice as fast as phytoplankton.  This resulted in fishes spawning before the start of the phytoplankton bloom across >85% of the region.  Seasonal mismatches between fishes and phytoplankton were less widespread in simulations where fishes altered the location of their spawning grounds in response to changing temperatures.  These results indicate that range shifts may increase the resiliency of fishes to climate change impacts associated with phenological mismatches, buffering against potential declines in larval survival, recruitment, and fisheries.