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In a new article in Fisheries Magazine, a National CASC researcher and co-authors summarize common stressors posed by climate change in North America and present potential adaptation strategies that fishery professionals may apply to help vulnerable fish and fisheries cope with a changing climate. 

North American fish and fisheries are ecologically, culturally, and economically valuable resources.  However, a better understanding of the effects of climate change on freshwater, estuarine, and marine fish, and the habitats on which they depend may help management of sustainable fisheries and conserving fish diversity.

In a recent article in Fisheries Magazine, National CASC Fish Biologist Abigail Lynch and co-authors, including USGS researchers Craig Paukert and Jeff Falke, provide a summary of four of the most important climate effects on fish and fisheries and possible adaptation strategies including:

  1. Warming water temperatures: in combination with other climate stressors, warming temperatures can create conditions that are more suitable for invasive species and less suitable for native fishes, may change vital rates such as growth and reproduction, increase the prevalence of disease and shift species distributions.

Adaptation Strategies: modifying harvest, changing land use, and curbing pollution.

  1. Changes in precipitation patterns: in freshwater systems, changing precipitation patterns may create a loss of connectivity, changes in lake size and depth, habitat diversity, disruption of spawning cues, and changes to water quality.

Adaptation Strategies: protecting least disturbed habitats restoring habitat connectivity and diversity, and translocating sensitive populations.

  1. Sea level rise: sea level rise will continue to intensify the effect of hurricanes and storms and may result in lower water quality, wetland loss, and erosion.

Adaptation Strategies: protecting mudflats and marshes, dense vegetation combined with nature- based structures like oyster reefs  as a coastal defense, connecting freshwater sources to downstream deltas to provide sediment sources for marshes and mangroves.

  1. Ocean acidification: changes in dissolved oxygen and CO2 form the basis of ocean and coastal acidification, which can affect the survival, growth, reproduction, and calcification of marine organisms and auditory behavior.

Adaptation Strategies: stabilizing global temperatures and CO2, curtailing nitrogen inputs, maintaining seagrass, aquaculture, and diversity of habitats.

By providing adaptation strategies for common challenges facing lakes and reservoirs, streams and rivers, wetlands, coastal and offshore marine ecosystems, and coral reefs, the authors’ goal is to provide fishery managers and decision makers with a summary of the state of the science on fish and climate change and the “tools” that may be considered to better manage fish and fisheries as these systems change in North America.

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