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May 3, 2019

Rapid Climate-Driven Circulation Changes Threaten Conservation of Endangered North Atlantic Right Whales

Publisher: Oceanography

Funders: Division of Marine Fisheries, Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Maine Department of Marine Resources, Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network of Centres of Excellence, Massachusetts Environmental Trust, NASA, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service, NSF OCE, USGS

Authors: Andrew J. Pershing, Daniel E. Pendleton, Jeffrey A. Runge, Kimberley T.A. Davies, Nicholas R. Record, William M. Balch

Language: English

As climate trends accelerate, ecosystems will be pushed rapidly into new states, reducing the potential efficacy of conservation strategies based on historical patterns. In the Gulf of Maine, climate-driven changes have restructured the ecosystem rapidly over the past decade. Changes in the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation have altered deepwater dynamics, driving warming rates twice as high as the fastest surface rates. This has had implications for the copepod Calanus finmarchicus, a critical food supply for the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). The oceanographic changes have driven a deviation in the seasonal foraging patterns of E. glacialis upon which conservation strategies depend, making the whales more vulnerable to ship strikes and gear entanglements. The effects of rapid climate-driven changes on a species at risk undermine current management approaches.