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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Project Completed: Climate Change Induced Shifts in Phenology of Coastal Fish and Wildlife in the Northeast

Sunday, January 12, 2020
Tern with small herring. Photo Credit: Michelle Staudinger

Adrian Jordaan and Michelle Staudinger recently completed their NE CASC project, Ecological and Management Implications of Climate Change Induced Shifts in Phenology of Coastal Fish and Wildlife Species in the NE CASC Region.

This work addresses the problem of how climate change causes species to shift their phenology, or the timing of recurring life events such as migration and reproduction. Such shifts can potentially result in mismatches with food and habitat resources that negatively impact species and ecosystems. Numerous studies have evaluated phenological shifts in terrestrial species, particularly birds and plants, yet far fewer evaluations have been conducted for marine animals. This project sought to improve understanding of shifts in timing at the ecosystem-scale across the Gulf of Maine as well as by exploring marine species-specific case studies. Through stakeholder engagement and outreach across the Northeast region, investigators formed an interdisciplinary working group that developed a regional synthesis of how the timing of biological and human activities were shifting in the Gulf of Maine. Investigators also identified two high priority case studies to focus evaluations and deeper analyses of factors contributing to observed shifts: 1) anadromous river herring in Massachusetts coastal streams, and 2) nesting seabirds across the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. A combined approach of synthesis and modeling was used to determine the direction, magnitude and extent of spatial shifts, as well as identify data gaps and future research needs. The results pointed to complex and location-specific phenological responses to climate-linked variables, but capacity for adaptive strategies to minimize risks to species. Project results are anticipated to increase the efficacy of management and planning tools which can be compromised when target species experience shifts in the timing of life history events.