I Wonder Where that Fish Will Go? Predicting Ecological Shifts in the Northwest Atlantic
Alterations in known marine fish distributions as a result of climate change have already been observed. This study aimed to predict the future effects of climate change on the ecology of four key fishery species in the Northwest Atlantic. This question was approached from two perspectives: changes available combinations of variables such as temperature, salinity, and primary productivity, and changes in the degree to which the four species’ ranges overlap in the Northwest Atlantic. To predict how the range of the study species would change in the next 100 years, ecological niche models (ENMs) of each species were developed using climate and species occurrence data. To predict changes in niche variable combinations, Multivariate Environmental Similarity Surface (MESS) analysis was used estimate how future environmental niche space will diverge from currently expressed niche space. These approaches both indicate that in the next fifty years, northwestern Atlantic ecosystems will experience a decrease in the degree of range overlap of key species and an increase in the dissimilarity of future environments to current conditions. However, in the more distant future, these analyses show that these effects will begin to reverse, with areas of suitable habitat and environmental niche space similar to contemporary conditions emerging at higher latitudes.