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Ecosystem response persists after a prolonged marine heatwave

March 18, 2021

Some of the longest and most comprehensive marine ecosystem monitoring programs were established in the Gulf of Alaska following the environmental disaster of the Exxon Valdez oil spill over 30 years ago. These monitoring programs have been successful in assessing recovery from oil spill impacts, and their continuation decades later has now provided an unparalleled assessment of ecosystem responses to another newly emerging global threat, marine heatwaves. The 2014–2016 northeast Pacific marine heatwave (PMH) in the Gulf of Alaska was the longest lasting heatwave globally over the past decade, with some cooling, but also continued warm conditions through 2019. Our analysis of 187 time series from primary production to commercial fisheries and nearshore intertidal to offshore oceanic domains demonstrate abrupt changes across trophic levels, with many responses persisting up to at least 5 years after the onset of the heatwave. Furthermore, our suite of metrics showed novel community-level groupings relative to at least a decade prior to the heatwave. Given anticipated increases in marine heatwaves under current climate projections, it remains uncertain when or if the Gulf of Alaska ecosystem will return to a pre-PMH state.

Publication Year 2021
Title Ecosystem response persists after a prolonged marine heatwave
DOI 10.1038/s41598-021-83818-5
Authors Robert M. Suryan, Mayumi L. Arimitsu, Heather A. Coletti, Russell R. Hopcroft, Mandy Lindeberg, Steven J. Barbeaux, Sonia Batten, William J. Burt, Mary Anne Bishop, James L. Bodkin, R. Brenner, Robert W. Campbell, Daniel A. Cushing, Seth L. Danielson, Martin W. Dorn, Brie Drummond, Daniel Esler, Thomas S. Gelatt, Dana H. Hanselman, Katrin Iken, David B. Irons, Scott A. Hatch, Stormy Haught, Kris Holderied, David G. Kimmel, Brenda H. Konar, Kathy J. Kuletz, Arthur B. Kettle, Benjamin J. Laurel, John M. Maniscalco, Daniel Monson, Craig O. Matkin, Caitlin McKinstry, John Moran, D. Olsen, John F. Piatt, Wayne A. Palsson, W. Scott Pegau, Lauren A. Rogers, Nora A. Rojek, Anne Schaefer, Ingrid B. Spies, J.M. Straley, Suzanne L. Strom, Marysia Szymkowiak, Ben P. Weitzman, Kathryn L. Sweeney, Ellen M. Yasumiishi, Stephanie Zador
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Scientific Reports
Index ID 70219158
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB