New Study Compiles Gulf of Maine Seasonal Wildlife Timing Shifts

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A new study supported by the Northeast CASC suggests researchers could increase observations and use more phenological datasets to understand how marine species are responding to climate change through phenological shifts in the Gulf of Maine and other coastal regions.

The blue Atlantic coast bordering Maine.

The Gulf of Maine. Credit: Michelle Staudinger

Many researchers and amateur naturalists keep track of dates for the first robin of spring, the first peepers or ice-out on ponds, and such records can offer decades of data on the timing of plant and animal life cycle events known as phenology. While such observations are common in terrestrial systems, a new report by first author Michelle Staudinger and others at the University of Massachusetts Amherst shows there is limited understanding of similar events in the oceans. They urge more researchers to increase observations and use more phenological datasets to understand how  are responding to  through phenological shifts in the Gulf of Maine and other .

Staudinger says, "We only found 20 studies documenting shifts in phenology in the Gulf of Maine. This topic appears to have received less attention in the region compared to other responses to climate change. We provide a summary of the existing evidence, and offer examples of the implications, remaining research questions and available long-term datasets appropriate for assessing shifts in the region. These data come from a range of federal, state, academic and citizen science monitoring programs."

The report, by Staudinger, her colleague Adrian Jordaan, graduate student Keenan Yakola, and 23 other co-authors from 17 organizations, appears in the journal Fisheries Oceanography. It synthesizes presentations from the 2015 annual meeting of the Regional Association for Research on the Gulf of Maine plus expert input from a 2016 workshop at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and a includes a comprehensive literature review. Staudinger is science coordinator at the Northeast Climate Adaptation Science Center (NE CASC) at UMass Amherst and an ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. Jordaan is an associate professor of fish population ecology and conservation at UMass Amherst and director of the campus's Gloucester Marine Station at Hodgkins Cove. Yakola is a graduate student in environmental conservation and a fellow at NE CASC.

Staudinger says, "We're trying to increase awareness of the importance of understanding phenological shifts, the usefulness of existing data, and the possibility of applying them to marine ecosystems. There are a lot of really great resources out there. They may not have been collected with phenology in mind, and may need to be reworked to achieve desired goals, but it's doable. We also need to continue to invest, and in some cases, expand regional monitoring programs to better capture shifts in phenology and other responses to climate change in the Gulf of Maine."

View the original article from PHYS.org.

Learn more about this research here.

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