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Collaborative Research: Effect of a warming climate on Arctic shelf and basin Calanus populations: implications for Pan-Arctic ecosystem dynamics

Team member:
WHOI: Carin J. Ashjian, Cabell S. Davis, Rubao Ji, Robert C. Beardsley
URI: Robert G. Campbell
UMASSD: Changsheng Chen, Geoffrey W. Cowles

Copepods of the genus Calanus are the keystone pelagic species in Arctic pelagic ecosystems. Ecosystem structure in the Arctic Ocean and marginal seas is significantly influenced by Calanus population dynamics and production that in turn determines the amount of primary production available either for benthic or pelagic food webs. Calanus are an important food source for pelagic fish species such as capelin, herring, pollock, and larval cod. Therefore, it is not surprising that ecosystems that support a high biomass of these large-bodied, lipid-rich copepods also have rich fisheries (e.g. Bering and Barents Seas). Ongoing warming of the Arctic seas due to climate change will have dramatic impacts on the shelf and basin ecosystems, potentially leading to regime shifts or shifts of biogeographic boundaries of the Calanus spp. Such shifts can have dramatic impacts both to the shelf ecosystems and to the exchange of carbon between Arctic shelves and basins. Furthermore, changes in Arctic shelf ecosystem structure and function can cascade up to upper trophic levels including commercially important fish species and marine mammals that in turn can significantly impact both indigenous and world human populations.

Biological-physical coupled models and numerical experimentation will be used to explore the physical and biological factors that control Calanus population dynamics and biogeographic boundaries in the Arctic Ocean and marginal seas, and to investigate the impacts of various climate warming scenarios on the potential for Calanus mediated regime shifts in these systems. The Arctic Ocean Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model integrated physical model system will be coupled to an individually-based Calanus model and a 4-stage Calanus concentration model. The physical model incorporates the atmosphere, ice, and ocean components of the system and establishes the environmental framework in which the Calanus population dynamics operate. The Chukchi and Barents Seas are in many ways the most similar yet the most different. The analyses will focus on these two shelf-seas and adjacent basins, however, the results of the analyses will be applicable to Calanus dynamics on all Arctic shelves. Data will be integrated from a wide range of physical and biological data sets, including the SBI program.

Scientific Merit, SBI Thematic Questions, and Synthesis Criteria: The proposed work falls under the first and third SBI thematic questions addressing important linkages between shelf ecosystems and the Arctic system and how climate variability would affect those linkages. System wide changes in atmospheric forcing drive multiple components of the physical, and then biological, environments on the shelf while changes in carbon cycling and ecosystem structure on the shelves cascades upwards even to the human component of the Arctic system. The plan fulfills all of the required criteria for synthesis. Existing data and concepts will be synthesized in a modeling effort targeted at understanding particular linkages between critical components of the shelf ecosystem. The work is interdisciplinary (atmosphere, ocean, ice, biology) and novel. Understanding of the interactions between population dynamics and environment would be extremely difficult to obtain through field observations and experimentation alone; use of innovative modeling will permit identification of new questions and new directions for research. The numerical experiments will be conducted over a series of spatial and temporal scales, including present day conditions to future climate warming scenarios. The modeling grid resolves both the shelves and the entire Arctic. Specific plans for deposition/dissemination of data products have been identified.

Outreach: A broad range of outreach activities have been identified including establishment of a publicly accessible project website to convey the results of the research targeted to the newly developed ocean literacy essential principles, involvement of undergraduates in the project, development of K-12 teaching modules, maintenance of a hindcast archive web database for the science community, and workshops to familiarize the community and new users with the physical ocean model.

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Last updated October 19, 2011
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