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Improving Climate Understanding and Information for Marine Sanctuary Management Planning

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CPO’s Climate Observations and Monitoring (COM) Program, in collaboration with the Modeling, Analysis, Prediction, and Projections (MAPP) Program and Climate and Societal Interactions (CSI) Division is announcing seven new three-year projects in Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) that aim to support the management of Sanctuaries and Marine National Monuments in a changing climate. These projects will improve the understanding of climate variability and change on protected aquatic resources, and improve information for climate considerations in Sanctuary condition reports and management planning. Projects will develop literature and understanding of climate variability and change in the sanctuaries system, improve observational datasets and analyses, apply models toward novel problems in the Sanctuary system, and develop and deliver information products and resources to Sanctuaries managers.

The competitively-selected projects total $3.7 million in awards over three years1. This set of funded projects is the result of the work of the CPO Marine Ecosystem Risk Team, and is a major achievement for the CPO Risk Area Initiative.

Image reproduced from the GEBCO world map. Customized by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

The Biden administration (Executive Order) identified coastal communities as having an essential role to play in mitigating climate change and strengthening resilience by protecting and restoring coastal ecosystems, such as wetlands, seagrasses, coral and oyster reefs, and mangrove and kelp forests, to protect vulnerable coastlines, sequester carbon, and support biodiversity and fisheries. Sanctuaries and other marine protected areas are a key component of this effort and are increasingly recognized as “nature-based solutions” towards addressing the dual biodiversity and climate crises.

In response, NOAA’s CPO is strengthening the climate-related Earth system and social science for place-based management of marine ecosystems and living resources regionally and nationally through seven research projects. John Armor, the Director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, notes that “this set of new projects funded by our partners in the Climate Program Office will bring an acute focus to the growing impacts of climate change across the National Marine Sanctuary System. The funded projects will ensure that climate information is developed or enhanced to a scale relevant to sanctuary managers and, in addition to climate, many advance other sanctuary priorities by advancing DEIA in STEM and engaging tribal and indigenous communities. By developing our Sanctuaries-specific scientific knowledge, and monitoring and forecasting capabilities, we will be better able to manage and protect these spectacular places against climate variability and change.” A newly launched task force composed of the funded researchers and National Marine Sanctuaries staff will ensure that the science outcomes are useful to the Sanctuaries managers and stakeholders, and will create a new community of practice around climate science in the Sanctuary system.

These new projects build on prior investments made across CPO programs that advance NOAA’s Climate Ecosystem Fisheries Initiative:

  • Improving understanding of the processes that affect ocean variability and change relevant to fisheries (CVP).
  • Improving the modeling of fisheries and other living marine resources across time scales (MAPP).
  • Characterizing climate impacts on ecosystem state and processes, and impacts on fisheries and fishing dependent communities, including the assessment of the vulnerabilities of marine resources and coastal communities, and the identification of adaptation opportunities for improved alignment between ecosystem health and human (socio-cultural and economic) well-being in coastal communities (AdSci).

The seven new projects2 funded by COM, MAPP, and CSI in FY22 are described below.

  • Projecting changes to habitat suitability and connectivity for predators and prey in California sanctuaries

    This project will use existing downscaled climate projections to examine predator and prey species distributions across the U.S. West Coast and their connectivity among California marine sanctuaries in response to long-term climate change and climate events such as marine heatwaves (MHWs). The research will provide time-series indicators of species responses to climate change, which will be of considerable benefit to California NMS, NOAA/NMFS, and the broader scientific community and public. An improved understanding of how species will be affected by climate change will support sustainable resource management and functional NMS.
    • Lead PI: Stephanie Brodie, University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC)
    • Co-PIs: Jennifer Brown, for Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary; Ryan Freedman, University of California Santa Barbara; Danielle Lipski, Cordell Bank NMS and Greater Farallones NMS; Steven Bograd, SWFSC/NOAA/NMFS
  • Modeling Climate-Driven Anchovy and Krill Variability Along the U.S. West Coast in Support of National Marine Sanctuaries

    This project’s use of integrated observational and modeling approach will provide information that better prepares west coast National Marine Sanctuaries for assessing and communicating past, present, and future impacts (positive and negative) associated with the surge and wane of anchovies within their boundaries. Through regular consultation with an advisory board of Sanctuary representatives, this project will develop products that can help National Marine Sanctuaries and other management entities mitigate climate impacts resulting in distributional shifts of key marine species and potential increased overlap of these species with human activities.
    • Lead PI: Jerome Fiechter, University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC)
    • Co-PIs: Andrew R. Thompson, NOAA; Jarrod A. Santora, NOAA; Monique Messie, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; Francisco P. Chavez, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
  • Pulse of the planet: A Climate Data Decision-Support Dashboard for National Marine Sanctuary Management and Participatory Adaptation Planning

    This project will engage NMS managers and stakeholders in a co-design process to develop an interactive “ocean climate dashboard” tool that improves access to critical climate-related information. Currently, decisions are often made without sufficient access to climate data to guide those decisions; with climate scientists producing data products in siloes, rarely engaging stakeholders to learn about desired products and formats.
    • Lead PI: Kelly Dunning, Auburn University (AU)
    • Co-PIs: Deepak Cherian, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Kristen Krumhardt, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Melissa Moulton, National Center for Atmospheric Research; Frederic Castruccio, National Center for Atmospheric Research
  • Variability of subsurface water masses in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

    The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) off Washington State is embedded in the northern California Current system (NCC), which is affected by major climate fluctuations, including marine heat waves, El Niño, changes in timing of spring transition to upwelling, seasonal hypoxia, and ocean acidification. There is a wealth of underutilized data available from OCNMS moorings deployed at 10 locations from 2000-present, and complementary public data from moorings deployed by Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems and Ocean Observatories Initiative Endurance Array in nearby waters off Washington and Oregon. This project will leverage underutilized data sets to enable more effective monitoring of subsurface conditions at OCNMS, including anomalies due to climate impacts, by producing authoritative seasonal climatologies and new long-term indices of subsurface anomalies.
    • Lead PI: Melanie Fewings, Oregon State University (OSU)
    • Co-PIs: Craig Risien, Oregon State University; Brandy Cervantes, Oregon State University
  • Climate Change Indicators Across the National Marine Sanctuaries System

    Changes in climate have led to changes in physical and biogeochemical characteristics of the Earth’s system that affect marine life and ecosystem services. This project will characterize the frequency, timing, intensity, and synergistic organization of Essential Ocean Variables (EOVs) that may affect biology and ecosystem processes throughout the National Marine Sanctuary System. The products will be developed based on instrumented records of precipitation,frequency and intensity of storms, wind intensity and direction, river discharge, nutrient and sediment load (turbidity), water and air temperature, ocean acidification parameters, harmful algal blooms, sea level, waves, and other data spanning the past several decades to 100 years as available. This approach will synthesize information to help understand local changes in the context of larger scales and a changing climate.
    • Lead PI: Frank Muller-Karger, University of South Florida
    • Co-PIs: Jennifer Dorton, Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing System (SECOORA); Chris Simoniello, Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS); Joshua Kilborn, University of South Florida (USF); Rebecca Zarger, University of South Florida (USF)
  • Vulnerability of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to climate-driven zooplankton changes in the Gulf of Maine

    Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) is one of the most productive areas in the Gulf of Maine (GoM). The foundation of this productivity is the planktonic copepod, Calanus finmarchicus, the primary prey of forage species such as krill, herring, and sand lance that in turn support other economically and ecologically important species, including Atlantic cod, bluefin tuna, great shearwaters, and humpback whales. Since 2010, observations conducted by NOAA and the Marine Biodiversity Observation Network (MBON) consistently show Calanus abundance at 30-60% of historical means in late summer and winter. The decline is driven by a shift of environmental conditions including warming and circulation-induced changes of water masses entering the GoM. This project advances understanding of ways in which changes in biodiversity affect the functioning of marine ecosystems and the services they provide. Through development of a useful forecasting tool, it will be a model of how interdisciplinary, integrated scientific research that leverages existing and new knowledge and data can enhance a marine sanctuary’s ability to plan and respond to climate variability and change.
    • Lead PI: Jacob Kritzer, Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS)
    • Co-PIs: Jeffrey Runge, University of Maine/ISMN; Rubao Ji, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI); Joel Llopiz, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI); Jacqueline Motyka, Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS)
  • Climate Change Impacts on Reef Fish Spawning Aggregations, Larval Dispersal, and Settlement in Southeastern U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries and Surrounding Areas

    Historically, marine sanctuaries have not often been cited with climate change impacts in mind. However, climate change can have negative impacts on fishes that use sanctuaries for spawning or larval settlement. This project will model changes in the distribution, phenology, and metapopulation structure of fish spawning aggregations under climate change scenarios.
    • Lead PI: Rebecca Asch, East Carolina University
    • Co-PIs: Cheryl Harrison, Louisiana State University

1The funding will be distributed over the life of the projects and future-year funding is conditional on appropriations.

2 At the time of publication, all awards may not have been accepted by recipient institutions

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