CAFA Publications

Publications from CAFA funded projects. Sort by year, title, or project to view publications.

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Coupled modes of projected regional change in the Bering Sea from a dynamically downscaling model under CMIP6 forcing

Project: The Alaska climate integrate modeling project phase 2: Building pathways to resilience, through evaluation of climate impacts, risk, and adaptation responses of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities in the Bering Sea, Alaska
Year: 2021

Author(s): Hermann, A. J., K. Kearney, W. Cheng, D. Pilcher, K. Aydin, K. K. Holsman, A. B. Hollowed.

Project PI: Hollowed

Three different global earth system models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) were used to explore anticipated changes in the Bering Sea under high (SSP126) and low (SSP585) carbon mitigation scenarios (i.e. low and high emission scenarios), via dynamical downscaling. A multivariate pattern analysis, based on Empirical Orthogonal Functions applied to monthly time series, reveals strong coupling of changes across several biophysical variables and the global forcing itself, on both yearly and multidecadal time scales. Rising air and ocean temperatures from the global models are strongly coupled with rising regional temperatures and reduced ice cover/thickness, as well as strong changes to the phenology of the plankton food chain, including reduced biomass of large zooplankton in the fall. This method ultimately provides a compact way to estimate the changes to many regional attributes under a variety of global change scenarios. Application of this method to a broad ensemble of the CMIP6 global model air temperatures suggests that compared to present conditions, the Bering Sea shelf bottom temperatures in July will warm by an average of ∼4 degrees C by the end of the 21st century under SSP585, as compared with ∼1 degrees C under SSP126, with greatest warming focused on the outer northern shelf.

 Management strategy evaluation: Allowing the light on the hill to illuminate more than one species

Project: The Alaska climate integrate modeling project phase 2: Building pathways to resilience, through evaluation of climate impacts, risk, and adaptation responses of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities in the Bering Sea, Alaska
Year: 2021

Author(s): Kaplan, I. C., S. K. Gaichas, C. C. Stawitz, P. D. Lynch, K. N. Marshall, J. J. Deroba, M. Masi, J. K. T. Brodziak, K. Y. Aydin, K. Holsman, H. Townsend, D. Tommasi, J. A. Smith, S. Koenigstein, M. Weijerman, J. Link.

Project PI: Hollowed

Management strategy evaluation (MSE) is a simulation approach that serves as a “light on the hill” (Smith, 1994) to test options for marine management, monitoring, and assessment against simulated ecosystem and fishery dynamics, including uncertainty in ecological and fishery processes and observations. MSE has become a key method to evaluate trade-offs between management objectives and to communicate with decision makers. Here we describe how and why MSE is continuing to grow from a single species approach to one relevant to multi-species and ecosystem-based management. In particular, different ecosystem modeling approaches can fit within the MSE process to meet particular natural resource management needs. We present four case studies that illustrate how MSE is expanding to include ecosystem considerations and ecosystem models as ‘operating models’ (i.e., virtual test worlds), to simulate monitoring, assessment, and harvest control rules, and to evaluate tradeoffs via performance metrics. We highlight United States case studies related to fisheries regulations and climate, which support NOAA’s policy goals related to the Ecosystem Based Fishery Roadmap and Climate Science Strategy but vary in the complexity of population, ecosystem, and assessment representation. We emphasize methods, tool development, and lessons learned that are relevant beyond the United States, and the additional benefits relative to single-species MSE approaches.

Evaluating the impact of climate and demographic variation on future prospects for fish stocks: An application for northern rock sole in Alaska

Project: The Alaska climate integrate modeling project phase 2: Building pathways to resilience, through evaluation of climate impacts, risk, and adaptation responses of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities in the Bering Sea, Alaska
Year: 2021

Author(s): Punt, André E., M. G. Dalton, W. Cheng, A. J.Hermann, K. K.Holsman, T. P. Hurst, J. N.Ianelli, K. A. Kearney, C. R.McGilliard, D. J.Pilcher, M. Véron.

Project PI: Hollowed

Climate-enhanced stock assessment models represent potentially vital tools for managing living marine resources under climate change. We present a climate-enhanced stock assessment where environmental variables are integrated within a population dynamics model assessment of biomass, fishing mortality and recruitment that also accounts for process error in demographic parameters. Probability distributions for the impact of the associated environmental factors on recruitment and growth can either be obtained from Bayesian analyses that involve fitting the population dynamics model to the available data or from auxiliary analyses. The results of the assessment form the basis for the calculation of biological and economic target and limit reference points, and projections under alternative harvest strategies. The approach is applied to northern rock sole (Lepidopsetta polyxystra), an important component of the flatfish fisheries in the Eastern Bering Sea. The assessment involves fitting to data on catches, a survey index of abundance, fishery and survey age-compositions and survey weight-at-age, with the relationship between recruitment and cold pool extent and that between growth increment in weight and temperature integrated into the assessment. The projections also allow for an impact of ocean pH on expected recruitment based on auxiliary analyses. Several alternative models are explored to assess the consequences of different ways to model environmental impacts on population demography. The estimates of historical biomass, recruitment and fishing mortality for northern rock sole are not markedly impacted by including climate and environmental factors, but estimates of target and limit reference points are sensitive to whether and how environmental variables are included in stock assessments and projections.

Climate change and the future productivity and distribution of crab in the Bering Sea

Project: The Alaska climate integrate modeling project phase 2: Building pathways to resilience, through evaluation of climate impacts, risk, and adaptation responses of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities in the Bering Sea, Alaska
Year: 2021

Author(s): Szuwalski, C.S., W. Cheng, R. Foy, A. Hermann, A. Hollowed, K. Holsman, J. Lee, W. Stockhausen, J. Zheng.

Project PI: Hollowed

Crab populations in the eastern Bering Sea support some of the most valuable fisheries in the United States, but their future productivity and distribution are uncertain. We explore observed changes in the productivity and distribution for snow crab, Tanner crab, and Bristol Bay red king crab. We link historical indices of environmental variation and predator biomass with observed time series of centroids of abundance and extent of crab stock distribution; we also fit stock–recruit curves including environmental indices for each stock. We then project these relationships under forcing from global climate models to forecast potential productivity and distribution scenarios. Our results suggest that the productivity of snow crab is negatively related to the Arctic Oscillation (AO) and positively related to ice cover; Tanner crab’s productivity and distribution are negatively associated with cod biomass and sea surface temperature. Aspects of red king crab distribution and productivity appear to be related to bottom temperature, ice cover, the AO, and/or cod biomass. Projecting these relationships forward with available forecasts suggests that Tanner crab may become more productive and shift further offshore, red king crab distribution may contract and move north, and productivity may decrease for snow crab as the population contracts northward.

Forecasting community reassembly using climate-linked spatio-temporal ecosystem models

Project: The Alaska climate integrate modeling project phase 2: Building pathways to resilience, through evaluation of climate impacts, risk, and adaptation responses of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities in the Bering Sea, Alaska
Year: 2021

Author(s): Thorson, J. T., M. L. Arimitsu, L. A. K. Barnett, W. Cheng, L. B. Eisner, A.C. Haynie, A. J. Hermann, K. Holsman, D. G. Kimmel, M. W. Lomas, J. Richar. E. C. Siddon.

Project PI: Hollowed

Ecosystems are increasingly impacted by human activities, altering linkages among physical and biological components. Spatial community reassembly occurs when these human impacts modify the spatial overlap between system components, and there is need for practical tools to forecast spatial community reassembly at landscape scales using monitoring data. To illustrate a new approach, we extend a generalization of empirical orthogonal function (EOF) analysis, which involves a spatio-temporal ecosystem model that approximates coupled physical, biological and human dynamics. We then demonstrate its application to five trophic levels for the eastern Bering Sea by fitting to multiple, spatially unbalanced datasets measuring physical characteristics (temperature measurements and climate-linked forecasts), primary producers (spring and fall size-fractionated chlorophyll-a), secondary producers (copepods), juveniles (age-0 walleye pollock), adult consumers (five commercially important fishes), human activities (seasonal fishing effort) and mobile predators (seabirds). We identify the spatial niche for each ecosystem component, as well as dominant modes of variability that are highly correlated with a known bottom–up driver of dynamics. We then measure spatial overlap between interacting variables (using Schoener's-D) and identify that age-0 pollock have decreased spatial overlap with copepods and increased overlap with adult pollock during warm years, and also that adult pollock have increased overlap with arrowtooth flounder and decreased overlap with catcher–processor fishing effort during these warm years. Given the warming conditions that are projected for the coming decade, the model forecasts increased prey and competitor overlap involving adult pollock (between age-0 pollock, adult pollock and arrowtooth flounder) and decreased overlap with the copepod forage base and with the catcher–processor fishery during future warming. We recommend that joint species distribution models be extended to incorporate ‘ecological teleconnections' (correlations between distant locations arising from known mechanisms) arising from behavioral adaptation by mobile animals as well as passive advection of nutrients and planktonic juvenile stages.

Grand challenge for habitat science: stage-structured responses, nonlocal drivers, and mechanistic associations among habitat variables affecting fishery productivity

Project: The Alaska climate integrate modeling project phase 2: Building pathways to resilience, through evaluation of climate impacts, risk, and adaptation responses of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities in the Bering Sea, Alaska
Year: 2021

Author(s): Thorson, J. T., A. J. Hermann, K. Siwicke, M. Zimmermann.

Project PI: Hollowed

Spatial management has been adopted worldwide to mitigate habitat impacts while achieving fisheries management objectives. However, there is little theory or practice for predicting the impact of spatial regulations on future fishery production; this would provide scientific basis for greater flexibility in fisheries management when balancing fishery and conservation goals. We propose that predicting changes in fishery production resulting from human activities within specific habitats is a “Grand Challenge” for habitat science in the coming decade(s). We then outline three difficulties in resolving this Grand Habitat Challenge, including: (i) stage-structured responses to habitat impacts, (ii) nonlocal responses, and (iii) mechanistic associations among habitat variables. We next discuss analytical approaches to address each difficulty, respectively: (i) ongoing developments for spatial demographic models; (ii) individual movement models and rank-reduction approaches to identify regional variability; (iii) causal analysis involving structural equation models. We demonstrate nonlocal effects in detail using a diffusion-taxis movement model applied to sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) in the Gulf of Alaska and discuss all three approaches for deep-sea corals. Despite isolated progress to resolve individual difficulties, we argue that resolving this Grand Habitat Challenge will require a coordinated commitment from science agencies worldwide.

Bottom-up impacts of forecasted climate change on the eastern Bering Sea food web. Special Issue “Using Ecological Models to Support and Shape Environmental Policy Decisions”

Project: The Alaska climate integrate modeling project phase 2: Building pathways to resilience, through evaluation of climate impacts, risk, and adaptation responses of marine ecosystems, fisheries, and coastal communities in the Bering Sea, Alaska
Year: 2021

Author(s): Whitehouse, G. A., K. Y. Aydin, A. B. Hollowed, K. K. Holsman, W. Cheng, A. Faig, A. C. Haynie, A. J. Hermann, K. A. Kearney, and A. E. Punt

Project PI: Hollowed

Recent observations of record low winter sea-ice coverage and warming water temperatures in the eastern Bering Sea have signaled the potential impacts of climate change on this ecosystem, which have implications for commercial fisheries production. We investigate the impacts of forecasted climate change on the eastern Bering Sea food web through the end of the century under medium- and high-emissions climate scenarios in combination with a selection of fisheries management strategies by conducting simulations using a dynamic food web model. The outputs from three global earth system models run under two greenhouse gas emission scenarios were dynamically downscaled using a regional ocean and biogeochemical model to project ecosystem dynamics at the base of the food web. Four fishing scenarios were explored: status quo, no fishing, and two scenarios that alternatively assume increased fishing emphasis on either gadids or flatfishes. Annual fishery quotas were dynamically simulated by combining harvest control rules based on model-simulated stock biomass, while incorporating social and economic tradeoffs induced by the Bering Sea’s combined groundfish harvest cap. There was little predicted difference between the status quo and no fishing scenario for most managed groundfish species biomasses at the end of the century, regardless of emission scenario. Under the status quo fishing scenario, biomass projections for most species and functional groups across trophic levels showed a slow but steady decline toward the end of the century, and most groups were near or below recent historical (1991–2017) biomass levels by 2080. The bottom–up effects of declines in biomass at lower trophic levels as forecasted by the climate-enhanced lower trophic level modeling, drove the biomass trends at higher trophic levels. By 2080, the biomass projections for species and trophic guilds showed very little difference between emission scenarios. Our method for climate-enhanced food web projections can support fisheries managers by informing strategic guidance on the long-term impacts of ecosystem productivity shifts driven by climate change on commercial species and the food web, and how those impacts may interact with different fisheries management scenarios.

Views From The Dock: Warming Waters, Adaptation, And The Future Of Maine’S Lobster Fishery

Project: Predicting social impacts of climate change in fisheries
Year: 2020

Author(s): McClenachan L, SB Scyphers, JH Grabowski

Project PI: Scyphers

The ability of resource-dependent communities to adapt to climate change depends in part on their perceptions and prioritization of specific climate-related threats. In the Maine lobster fishery, which is highly vulnerable to warming water associated with climate change, we found a strong majority (84%) of fishers viewed warming water as a threat, but rank its impacts lower than other drivers of change (e.g., pollution). Two-thirds believed they will be personally affected by warming waters, but only half had plans to adapt. Those with adaptation plans demonstrated fundamentally different views of human agency in this system, observing greater anthropogenic threats, but also a greater ability to control the fishery through their own actions on the water and fisheries management processes. Lack of adaptation planning was linked to the view that warming waters result from natural cycles, and the expectation that technological advancements will help buffer the industry from warming waters.

The Effect Of Ocean Warming On Black Sea Bass (Centropristis Striata) Physiology.

Project: 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
Year: 2020

Author(s): Slesinger, E., Saba, G., Young, R., Andres, A., Saba, V., Phelan, B., Rosendale, J., Wieczorek, D., Seibel, B.

Project PI: Saba

Over the last decade, ocean temperature on the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf (U.S. NES) has warmed faster than the global average and is associated with observed distribution changes of the northern stock of black sea bass (Centropristis striata). Mechanistic models based on physiological responses to environmental conditions can improve future habitat suitability projections. We measured maximum, standard metabolic rate, and hypoxia tolerance (Scrit) of the northern adult black sea bass stock to assess performance across the known temperature range of the species. Two methods, chase and swim-flume, were employed to obtain maximum metabolic rate to examine whether the methods varied, and if so, the impact on absolute aerobic scope. A subset of individuals was held at 30˚C for one month (30chronic˚C) prior to experiments to test acclimation potential. Absolute aerobic scope (maximum–standard metabolic rate) reached a maximum of 367.21 mgO2 kg-1 hr-1 at 24.4˚C while Scrit continued to increase in proportion to standard metabolic rate up to 30˚C. The 30chronic˚C group exhibited a significantly lower maximum metabolic rate and absolute aerobic scope in relation to the short-term acclimated group, but standard metabolic rate or Scrit were not affected. This suggests a decline in performance of oxygen demand processes (e.g. muscle contraction) beyond 24˚C despite maintenance of oxygen supply. The Metabolic Index, calculated from Scrit as an estimate of potential aerobic scope, closely matched the measured factorial aerobic scope (maximum / standard metabolic rate) and declined with increasing temperature to a minimum below 3. This may represent a critical threshold value for the species. With temperatures on the U.S. NES projected to increase above 24˚C in the next 80-years in the southern portion of the northern stock’s range, it is likely black sea bass range will continue to shift poleward as the ocean continues to warm.

Comparing And Synthesizing Quantitative Distribution Models And Qualitative Vulnerability Assessments To Project Marine Species Distributions Under Climate Change

Project: Climate velocity over the 21st century and its implications for fisheries management in the Northeast U.S.
Year: 2020

Author(s): Allyn, A. J., M. A. Alexander, B. S. Franklin, F. Massiot-Granier, A. J. Pershing, J. D. Scott, and K. E. Mills.

Project PI: Mills

Species distribution shifts are a widely reported biological consequence of climate-driven warming across marine ecosystems, creating ecological and social challenges. To meet these challenges and inform management decisions, we need accurate projections of species distributions. Quantitative species distribution models (SDMs) are routinely used to make these projections, while qualitative climate change vulnerability assessments are becoming more common. We constructed SDMs, compared SDM projections to expectations from a qualitative expert climate change vulnerability assessment, and developed a novel approach for combining the two methods to project the distribution and relative biomass of 49 marine species in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem under a “business as usual” climate change scenario. A forecasting experiment using SDMs highlighted their ability to capture relative biomass patterns fairly well (mean Pearson’s correlation coefficient between predicted and observed biomass = 0.24, range = 0–0.6) and pointed to areas needing improvement, including reducing prediction error and better capturing fine-scale spatial variability. SDM projections suggest the region will undergo considerable biological changes, especially in the Gulf of Maine, where commercially-important groundfish and traditional forage species are expected to decline as coastal fish species and warmer-water forage species historically found in the southern New England/Mid-Atlantic Bight area increase. The SDM projections only occasionally aligned with vulnerability assessment expectations, with agreement more common for species with adult mobility and population growth rates that showed low sensitivity to climate change. Although our blended approach tried to build from the strengths of each method, it had no noticeable improvement in predictive ability over SDMs. This work rigorously evaluates the predictive ability of SDMs, quantifies expected species distribution shifts under future climate conditions, and tests a new approach for integrating SDMs and vulnerability assessments to help address the complex challenges arising from climate-driven species distribution shifts.

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COCA FY2016 - Ecosystem Services for a Resilient Coast in a Changing Climate

  • 3 October 2016
COCA FY2016 -  Ecosystem Services for a Resilient Coast in a Changing Climate

NOAA’s Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) program competitively selected four two-year projects totaling $1,105,115 in grants for the FY2016 Ecosystem Services for a Resilient Coast in a Changing Climate competition.

The COCA program addresses the needs of decision makers dealing with pressing climate-related issues in coastal and marine environments. The program supports interdisciplinary teams of researchers in the development and transition of climate-related research and information to advance decision-making in coastal communities and coastal and marine ecosystems. Outcomes of COCA projects inform the response and coping capacity of decision-making and management communities to climate variability and change.

As decision-makers along the coast plan for a changing climate, there is increased recognition of the importance of coastal ecosystems and their ecosystem services1. There is also an increased demand from managers and decision makers for information on valuing ecosystem services and mechanisms to incorporate this information into coastal decision-making.

For FY16, COCA held a competition to support interdisciplinary applied research projects focused on the  development and application of methodologies to value ecosystems services and natural and nature-based features (NNBF)2.  This competition is designed to build from research focused on ecosystem services funded in FY14. The goal of the FY16 projects is to support the integration of NNBF approaches into coastal adaptation efforts. 

Natural 'green barriers' help protect this Florida coastline and infrastructure from severe storms and floods. (Credit: NOAA).

The four new projects to be funded by the COCA program in 2016 are:

  • University of Massachusetts Boston – “Improving the Environment While Protecting Coasts: A Holistic Accounting of Ecosystem Services of Green Infrastructure and Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF) in an Urbanized Coastal Environment”

    • Lead Principal Investigator (PI): Ellen Douglas (University of Massachusetts Boston)

    • CO-PIs: Paul Kirshen (University of Massachusetts Boston), Kenneth Reardon (University of Massachusetts Boston), Jarrett Byrnes (University of Massachusetts Boston), Di Jin (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Juanita Urban-Rich (University of Massachusetts Boston), Jack Wiggin (University of Massachusetts Boston), Cynthia Pilskaln (University of Massachusetts Dartmouth), David Levy (University of Massachusetts Boston), John Duff (University of Massachusetts Boston)

  • RAND – “Incorporating Interactive Visions and Bioeconomic Values of Ecosystem Services into Climate Adaptation: An Example from Jamaica Bay, Brooklyn / Queens, New York City”

    • Lead PI: Craig Bond (RAND)

    • Co-PIs: Philip Orton (Stevens Institute of Technology), Eric Sanderson (Wildlife Conservation Society)

  • Clark University – “Linking Coastal Adaptation Portfolios to Tidal Marsh Resilience and Sustainable Ecosystem Service Values: Transferable Guidance for Decisions under Uncertainty”

    • Lead-PI: Robert J. Johnston (Clark University)

    • Co-PIs: Matt Kirwan (College of William and Mary), Dana Marie Bauer (George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University), Anke D. Leroux (Monash University)

  • University of Chicago & University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth – “Kelp forests: Their Dynamics, Services, and Fate in a Changing Climate”

    • Lead PIs: Catherine Pfister (University of Chicago) and Mark Altabet (University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth)

    • Co-PIs: Liam Antrim (Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary), Helen Berry (Washington State Department of Natural Resources)

COCA is a program in the Climate and Societal Interactions Division of the Climate Program Office, within NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. To learn more about COCA and it’s funding opportunities, visit:

For a full list of CPO’s grants and awards for 2016, visit:’s-Climate-Program-Office-awards-443M-to-advance-climate-research-improve-community-resilience.aspx

NOAA’s Climate Program Office helps improve understanding of climate variability and change in order to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond. NOAA provides science, data, and information that Americans want and need to understand how climate conditions are changing. Without NOAA’s long-term climate observing, monitoring, research, and modeling capabilities we couldn’t quantify where and how climate conditions have changed, nor could we predict where and how they’re likely to change. 





1Ecosystem services are the benefits (e.g. food, flood protection, opportunities for recreation) that ecosystems provide to people. Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Current State and Trends: Findings of the Condition and Trends Working Group, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Rashid Hassan, Robert Scholes, Neville Ash (eds). Island Press, 2005.

2“Natural Features are created and evolve over time through the actions of physical, biological, geologic, and chemical processes operating in nature. Natural coastal features take a variety of forms, including reefs (e.g., coral and oyster), barrier islands, dunes, beaches, wetlands, and maritime forests. The relationships and interactions among the natural and built features comprising the coastal system are important variables determining coastal vulnerability, reliability, risk, and resilience. Nature-Based Features are those that may mimic characteristics of natural features but are created by human design, engineering, and construction to provide specific services such as coastal risk reduction. The combination of both natural and nature-based features is referred to collectively as nature and nature-based features (NNBF).” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Use of Natural and Nature-Based Features (NNBF) for Coastal Resilience: Final Report.  



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