CAFA Publications

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

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Biogeochemical Drivers Of Changing Hypoxia In The California Current Ecosystem

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2019

Author(s): Dussin, R, EN Curchitser, CA Stock, N Van Ooostende

Project PI: Jacox

Recent observations have revealed significant fluctuations in near-shore hypoxia in the California Current Ecosystem (CCE). These fluctuations have been linked to changes in the biogeochemical properties (e.g. oxygen and nutrient contents) of the oceanic source waters of the California Current upwelling, and projections suggest the potential for decreased oxygen and increased nutrients in the source water under climate change. We examine both the separate and combined influences of these projected changes through a sequence of perturbation experiments using a regional coupled ocean dynamics/biogeochemistry (BGC) model of the CCE. The direct effect of a projected 5% decline in source water oxygen is to expand the hypoxic area by 12.5% in winter to 22.5% in summer. This exceeds the impact of a +0.5% nitrate enrichment of source waters, which expands the hypoxic area by 6.5% to 12% via stimulation of nearshore Net Primary Productivity (NPP), increased organic matter export, and subsequent enhanced remineralization and dissolved oxygen (DO) consumption at depth. The combined effect of these perturbations consistently surpasses the sum of the individual impacts, leading to 20% to 32% more hypoxic area. The combined biogeochemical impact greatly exceeds the response resulting from a 10% strengthening in upwelling-favorable winds (+1% in hypoxic area) or the decreased oxygen solubility associated with a 2◦C ocean warming (+3%). These results emphasize the importance of improved constraints on dynamic biogeochemical changes projected along the boundaries of shelf ecosystems. While such changes are often viewed as secondary impacts of climate change relative to local warming or stratification changes, they may prove dominant drivers of coastal ecosystem change.

Marine Top Predators As Climate And Ecosystem Sentinels

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2019

Author(s): Hazen, EL, et al

Project PI: Jacox

The rapid pace of environmental change in the Anthropocene necessitates the development of a new suite of tools for measuring ecosystem dynamics. Sentinel species can provide insight into ecosystem function, identify hidden risks to human health, and predict future change. As sentinels, marine apex (top) predators offer a unique perspective into ocean processes, given that they can move across ocean basins and amplify trophic information across multiple spatiotemporal scales. Because use of the terms “ecosystem sentinel” and “climate sentinel” has proliferated in the scientific literature, there is a need to identify the properties that make marine predators effective sentinels. We provide a clear definition of the term “sentinel”, review the attributes of species identified as sentinels, and describe how a suite of such sentinels could strengthen our understanding and management of marine ecosystems. We contend that the use of marine predators as ecosystem sentinels will enable rapid response and adaptation to ecosystem variability and change.

Using A Climate-To-Fishery Model To Simulate The Influence Of The 1976-1977 Regime Shift On Anchovy And Sardine In The California Current Ecosystem

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2019

Author(s): Nishikawa, H, EN Curchitser, J Fiechter, KA Rose, K Hedstrom

Project PI: Jacox

The influence of the well-known 1976–1977 regime shift on the Northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax) and the Pacific sardine (Sardinops caeruleus) populations in the California Current System (CCS) is investigated using a climate-to-fishery model. This model consists of four coupled submodels (regional ocean circulation model; Eulerian nutrient-phytoplankton-zooplankton-detritus model; individual-based full life cycle anchovy and sardine model; agent-based fishery model). Analysis of a historical simulation (1958–1990) showed that survival fraction of age-0 anchovy was lower just after 1977, while survival fraction of age-0 sardine was relatively unaffected by the regime shift. The age-0 survival of both species was influenced by the growth in the larval stage. Simulated zooplankton densities in the historical simulation shifted from high to low in 1976–1977 in the CCS, with the shift being most drastic in winter in the coastal area. The model also shows that anchovy larvae feed extensively from winter to early spring in the coastal area, while sardine larvae were mainly distributed in the offshore area. The differential seasonal and spatial responses of zooplankton in the simulation caused anchovy survival to be more sensitive than sardine to the 1976–1977 regime shift. The model-generated zooplankton shift was a result of reduced phytoplankton production due to lowered nutrient concentrations after 1977 due to the weakening of both the coastal upwelling and mixed layer shoaling, which reduced the vertical nutrient flux from the bottom layer to the surface layer.

Lost Opportunity: Quantifying The Dynamic Economic Impact Of Time-Area Fishery Closures

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2019

Author(s): Smith, J.A., Tommasi, D., Sweeney, J., Brodie, S., Welch, H., Hazen, E.L., Muhling, B., Stohs, S.M. and Jacox, M.G.

Project PI: Jacox

Time-area closures are an important tool for reducing fisheries bycatch, but their effectiveness and economic impact can be influenced by the changes in species distributions. For fisheries targeting highly mobile species, the economic impact of a closure may by highly dynamic, depending on the current suitability of the closed area for the target species.We present an analysis to quantify the fine-scale economic impact of time-area closures: the ‘lost economic opportunity’, which is the percentage of total potential profit for an entire fishing season that occurs within and during a time-area closure. Our analysis integrates a spatially explicit and environment-informed catch model with a utility model that quantifies fishing revenues and costs, and thus incorporates a dynamic target species distribution in the estimated economic impact of a closure. We demonstrate this approach by evaluating the economic impact of the Loggerhead Conservation Area (LCA) on California's drift gillnet swordfish Xiphias gladius fishery.The lost economic opportunity due to the LCA time-area closure ranged from 0% to 6% per season, with variation due to port location and trip duration, as well as inter-annual changes in swordfish distribution. This increased by 40%–90% when a seasonally varying swordfish price was considered. There was a clear signal in economic impact associated with a shift from warm to cool conditions in the California Current following the 1998 El Niño, with increased lost economic opportunity from 1999. This signal was due to higher swordfish catch inside the LCA during the cool phase, associated with increased water column mixing, and due to higher catches outside the LCA in the warmer phase, associated with increased sea-surface temperature.Synthesis and applications. We found small economic impact from a fishery closure, but with meaningful inter-annual variation due to environmental change and the dynamic distribution of a target species. Our approach could be used to help determine the timing of closures, simulate impacts of proposed closures and, more generally, assess some economic consequences of climate-induced shifts in species’ ranges.

Decision-Support Tools For Dynamic Management

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2019

Author(s): Welch, H, S Brodie, MG Jacox, SJ Bograd, EL Hazen

Project PI: Jacox

Spatial management is a valuable strategy to advance regional goals for nature conservation, economic development, and human health. One challenge of spatial management is navigating the prioritization of multiple features. This challenge becomes more pronounced in dynamic management scenarios, in which boundaries are flexible in space and time in response to changing biological, environmental, or socioeconomic conditions. To implement dynamic management, decision-support tools are needed to guide spatial prioritization as feature distributions shift under changing conditions. Marxan is a widely applied decision-support tool designed for static management scenarios, but its utility in dynamic management has not been evaluated. EcoCast is a new decision-support tool developed explicitly for the dynamic management of multiple features, but it lacks some of Marxan's functionality. We used a hindcast analysis to compare the capacity of these 2 tools to prioritize 4 marine species in a dynamic management scenario for fisheries sustainability. We successfully configured Marxan to operate dynamically on a daily time scale to resemble EcoCast. The relationship between EcoCast solutions and the underlying species distributions was more linear and less noisy, whereas Marxan solutions had more contrast between waters that were good and poor to fish. Neither decision-support tool clearly outperformed the other; the appropriateness of each depends on management purpose, resource-manager preference, and technological capacity of tool developers.

Scientific Considerations Informing Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation And Management Act Reauthorization.

Project: Climate velocity over the 21st century and its implications for fisheries management in the Northeast U.S.
Year: 2018

Author(s): Miller, T., C. M. Jones, C. Hanson, S. Heppell, O. Jensen, P. Livingston, K. Lorenzen, K. Mills, W. F. Patterson, P. J. Sullivan, and R. Wong.

Project PI: Mills

Rebuilding In The Face Of Climate Change. Canadian Journal Of Fisheries And Aquatic Sciences

Project: Robust harvest strategies for responding to climate‐induced changes in fish productivity
Year: 2018

Author(s): Bell, R. J., Wood, A., Hare, J., Richardson, D., Manderson, J., & Miller, T.

Project PI: Collie

Decadal-scale climate variability and change can cause trends in oceanographic conditions that impact demographic rates. Rebuilding scenarios, therefore, developed assuming constant demographic rates may not be realistic. Winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus) is an important commercial and recreational species that has declined in the southern portion of its range despite reduced exploitation. Laboratory and mesocosm studies suggest that stock productivity is reduced under warmer conditions and that rebuilding to historical levels may not be possible. Our goal was to examine the rebuilding potential of winter flounder in the face of regional warming. We integrated winter temperature into a population model to estimate environmentally driven stock–recruitment parameters and projected the stock into the future under different climate and fishing scenarios. The inclusion of winter temperature had minor impacts on the estimates of current abundance, but provided greater understanding of the drivers of recruitment. Projections that included the environment suggest that rebuilding the stock to historical levels is unlikely. The integration of both fishing and the environment has the potential to provide more realistic expectations of future stock status.

Integrating Dynamic Subsurface Habitat Metrics Into Species Distribution Models, Frontiers In Marine Science

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2018

Author(s): Brodie, S., M. G. Jacox, S. J. Bograd, H. Welch, H. Dewar, K. L. Scales, S. M. Maxwell, D. K. Briscoe, C. A. Edwards, L. B. Crowder, R. L. Lewison, E. L. Hazen

Project PI: Jacox

Species distribution models (SDMs) have become key tools for describing and predicting species habitats. In the marine domain, environmental data used in modeling species distributions are often remotely sensed, and as such have limited capacity for interpreting the vertical structure of the water column, or are sampled in situ, offering minimal spatial and temporal coverage. Advances in ocean models have improved our capacity to explore subsurface ocean features, yet there has been limited integration of such features in SDMs. Using output from a data-assimilative configuration of the Regional Ocean Modeling System, we examine the effect of including dynamic subsurface variables in SDMs to describe the habitats of four pelagic predators in the California Current System (swordfish Xiphias gladius, blue sharks Prionace glauca, common thresher sharks Alopias vulpinus, and shortfin mako sharks Isurus oxyrinchus). Species data were obtained from the California Drift Gillnet observer program (1997–2017). We used boosted regression trees to explore the incremental improvement enabled by dynamic subsurface variables that quantify the structure and stability of the water column: isothermal layer depth and bulk buoyancy frequency. The inclusion of these dynamic subsurface variables significantly improved model explanatory power for most species. Model predictive performance also significantly improved, but only for species that had strong affiliations with dynamic variables (swordfish and shortfin mako sharks) rather than static variables (blue sharks and common thresher sharks). Geospatial predictions for all species showed the integration of isothermal layer depth and bulk buoyancy frequency contributed value at the mesoscale level (<100 km) and varied spatially throughout the study domain. These results highlight the utility of including dynamic subsurface variables in SDM development and support the continuing ecological use of biophysical output from ocean circulation models.

A Dynamic Ocean Management Tool To Reduce Bycatch And Support Sustainable Fisheries

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2018

Author(s): E.L. Hazen, K.L. Scales, S.M. Maxwell, D. Briscoe, H. Welch, S.J. Bograd, H. Bailey, S.R. Benson, T. Eguchi, H. Dewar, S. Kohin, D.P. Costa, L.B. Crowder, R.L. Lewison

Project PI: Jacox
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3001

Seafood is an essential source of protein for more than 3 billion people worldwide, yet bycatch of threatened species in capture fisheries remains a major impediment to fisheries sustainability. Management measures designed to reduce bycatch often result in significant economic losses and even fisheries closures. Static spatial management approaches can also be rendered ineffective by environmental variability and climate change, as productive habitats shift and introduce new interactions between human activities and protected species. We introduce a new multispecies and dynamic approach that uses daily satellite data to track ocean features and aligns scales of management, species movement, and fisheries. To accomplish this, we create species distribution models for one target species and three bycatch-sensitive species using both satellite telemetry and fisheries observer data. We then integrate species-specific probabilities of occurrence into a single predictive surface, weighing the contribution of each species by management concern. We find that dynamic closures could be 2 to 10 times smaller than existing static closures while still providing adequate protection of endangered nontarget species. Our results highlight the opportunity to implement near real-time management strategies that would both support economically viable fisheries and meet mandated conservation objectives in the face of changing ocean conditions. With recent advances in eco-informatics, dynamic management provides a new climate-ready approach to support sustainable fisheries.

Climate Variability And Sardine Recruitment In The California Current: A Mechanistic Analysis Of An Ecosystem Model, Fisheries Oceanography

Project: From physics to fisheries: A social-ecological management strategy evaluation for the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
Year: 2018

Author(s): D. Politikos, E.N. Curchitser, K.A. Rose, D.M. Checkley, J. Fiechter

Project PI: Jacox

Recruitment varies substantially in small pelagic fish populations. Understanding of the mechanisms linking environment to recruitment is essential for the effective management of fisheries resources. In this study, we used a fully coupled end-to-end ecosystem model to study the effect of climate variability on sardine recruitment in the California Current System during 1965–2006. Ocean variability was represented by ROMS hydrodynamic and NEMURO biogeochemical models, and sardine population dynamics was simulated through a full life cycle individual-based model. Model analysis was designed to elucidate how changes in abiotic and biotic conditions may impact the spawning habitats, early life stage survival, and ultimately recruitment of sardine. Our findings revealed the importance of spatial processes to shape early life stages dynamics. Shifts in spawning habitats were dictated by the spatial variations in temperature and the behavioral movement of adults. Additionally, the spatial match of eggs with warmer temperatures and larvae with their prey influenced their survival. The northward shifts in spawning locations and the accomplishment of good recruitment in warmer years agreed with existing knowledge. Egg production and survival during egg and yolk-sac larval stages were key factors to drive the long-term variations in recruitment. Finally, our analysis provided a quantitative assessment of climate impact on year-to-year variation in sardine recruitment by integrating multiple hypotheses.

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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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