Hot Topic: Effects of Climate Variability on Fisheries


Global surface temperature change. Image courtesy of NOAA.

Marine ecosystems are affected by environmental changes such as variations in ocean temperature, wind and ocean circulation patterns, and ocean chemistry. Fish populations respond to these environmental changes in different ways depending on the severity and duration of the change. For example, fish may temporarily relocate to find refuge from short-term weather changes such as storms. When the storm has subsided, fish typically return to their native habitats without long-term effects on population distributions. Fish may also migrate seasonally, seeking warmer waters and more abundant food supplies in winter, and returning "home" again in spring or summer. But how do fish respond to environmental changes that persist over longer spans of time?

Climate variations occur on time scales of years, decades, and even centuries, and could have potentially drastic impacts on species distribution and migration patterns. In this investigation, you will explore case studies of how different fish populations have responded to climate variability over a variety of time scales.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:

  • understand climate variability on multiple time scales;
  • explain how climate variability effects fish populations; and
  • explain how the future of fish populations can be predicted using global climate change data.

Keeping Track of What You Learn

Throughout these labs, you will find two kinds of questions.
  • Checking In questions are intended to keep you engaged and focused on key concepts and to allow you to periodically check if the material is making sense. These questions are often accompanied by hints or answers to let you know if you are on the right track.
  • Stop and Think questions are intended to help your teacher assess your understanding of the key concepts and skills you should be learning from the lab activities and readings.
Your teacher will let you know which answers you should record and turn in.