Title: Indicators of Habitat change affecting three key commercial species of the U.S. Northeast Shelf:  A design to facilitate proactive management in the face of climate change

Project Lead: Grace Saba

Funding Agency:  NOAA

Partners:  NOAA NEFC, University of Rhode Island, MARACOOS

Period of Performance: 8/1/15 – 7/31/20

Total Budget:  $1,311,171 (Rutgers $747,743)

Project summary:

Statement of the Problem and Rationale: The productivity and/or distributions of many living marine resources (LMRs) within the U.S. Northeast Shelf (U.S. NES) have been changing in concert with warming ocean temperatures. However, most operational models used for the assessment of LMRs to inform fisheries management assume that the effects of the environment on distribution, population productivity, and natural mortality are implicit or fixed. As a result, assessment projections of stock size and trend used for developing fisheries management regulations assume that ecosystem conditions reflected in time-series data used to calibrate assessment models will be sustained in the future. Moreover, the few studies that have applied metrics of habitat change of specific LMRs under climate change scenarios have been based on environmental correlates derived from fisheries-independent field survey data along with fisheries landings. The nature of the survey data limits the interpretation of optimal habitat because of small spatial and temporal coverage. While using field data has value, laboratory-based studies of physiological responses that can be used to calibrate species niche models with a basis in fundamental eco-physiological mechanisms are likely to produce more accurate projections that can include environmental states. Three commercial species that currently have substantial interest to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council due to existing and potential changes in habitat are black sea bass (Centropristis striata), longfin squid (Doryteuthis pealeii), and spiny dogfish (Squalus acanthias). These three species differ with respect to the strength of association with the seabed and water column, and serve as important prey and predators in the marine ecosystem. Achieving improved habitat metrics based on laboratory studies of these three species can produce hindcast simulations and climate change projections of habitat quantity andquality and ultimately guide existing and future management decisions.

Summary of Work: The research will be organized into the following four tasks: 1) Laboratory studies of thermal optima: We will use temperature-controlled swim tunnels with intermittent respirometry to determine the physiological at a range of water temperatures of adult sized black sea bass, longfin squid, and spiny dogfish. 2) Simulate contemporary habitat using an existing ROMs hindcast: From the data generated from the laboratory studies we will produce thermal response curves combined with fine-scale bottom topography (for black sea bass) and apply them to an existing 50-year, three-dimensional hindcast of the U.S. NES ocean conditions using ROMs. 3) Habitat metric assessment: We will then use the hindcast simulations to develop and assess habitat metrics with respect to changes in population distribution, size, and variability. Habitat metrics will include spatial metrics of habitat location and quantity, temporal metrics of timing and duration, and metrics of patchiness. 4) Habitat projections under climate change: We will project habitat quality and quantity and calculate relevant habitat metrics identified in #3 for the three species within the U.S. NES over various scenarios of climate change. This will involve the use of high-resolution global climate models at NOAA GFDL.