How and why is the timing and occurrence of seasonal migrants in the Gulf of Maine changing due to climate?

Project Type: 
Stakeholder-Identified Research Project
Fiscal Year: 
Project Leader: 
Research Partners: 
Daniel Pendleton (John H Prescott Marine Laboratory, New England Aquarium, Central Wharf, Boston, MA)
Science Themes: 

Shifts in phenology, or the timing of recurring life events, have been described as a “fingerprint” of temporal and spatial responses by biodiversity to climate change impacts. Thus phenology provides one of the strongest indicators of the adaptive capacity of organisms to cope with future environmental conditions. In this study we will investigate how the timing and occurrence of a suite of highly migratory marine animals is changing due to a series of climatic and ecological drivers. Using existing long-term historical data series, we will determine the direction and magnitude of how migration, abundance, or other phenological indicator has changed in a suite of marine mammals, sea turtles and fishes that migrate into the Gulf of Maine on a seasonal basis. Because marine animals are inherently cryptic and imperfectly detected, we will apply novel statistical approaches, namely dynamic occupancy models, to evaluate seasonal migration patterns and habitat use across multiple habitats in the Gulf of Maine region. Lastly, we will synthesize regional information on a key prey species, sandlance, whose timing and abundance is a strong predictor of the occurrence and behavior of predators targeted in this study.  Results will identify species that are relatively more or less adaptive and thus vulnerable to climate change, determine the likely primary drivers of those changes, as well as data gaps and future monitoring needs. Ultimately, this information will be useful to inform regional management and adaptation plans.