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Rising synchrony controls western North American ecosystems

April 3, 2018

Along the western margin of North America, the winter expression of the North Pacific High (NPH) strongly influences interannual variability in coastal upwelling, storm track position, precipitation, and river discharge. Coherence among these factors induces covariance among physical and biological processes across adjacent marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we show that over the past century the degree and spatial extent of this covariance (synchrony) has substantially increased, and is coincident with rising variance in the winter NPH. Furthermore, centuries‐long blue oak (Quercus douglasii) growth chronologies sensitive to the winter NPH provide robust evidence that modern levels of synchrony are among the highest observed in the context of the last 250 years. These trends may ultimately be linked to changing impacts of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on mid‐latitude ecosystems of North America. Such a rise in synchrony may destabilize ecosystems, expose populations to higher risks of extinction, and is thus a concern given the broad biological relevance of winter climate to biological systems.

Publication Year 2018
Title Rising synchrony controls western North American ecosystems
DOI 10.1111/gcb.14128
Authors Bryan A. Black, Peter van der Sleen, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, Daniel Griffin, William J. Sydeman, Jason B. Dunham, Ryan R. Rykaczewski, Marisol Garcia-Reyes, Mohammad Safeeq, Ivan Arismendi, Steven J. Bograd
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Global Change Biology
Index ID 70196345
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center