It’s about time: A synthesis of changing phenology in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem

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Abstract

The timing of recurring biological and seasonal environmental events is changing on a global scale relative to temperature and other climate drivers. This study considers the Gulf of Maine ecosystem, a region of high social and ecological importance in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean and synthesizes current knowledge of (a) key seasonal processes, patterns, and events; (b) direct evidence for shifts in timing; (c) implications of phenological responses for linked ecological-human systems; and (d) potential phenology-focused adaptation strategies and actions. Twenty studies demonstrated shifts in timing of regional marine organisms and seasonal environmental events. The most common response was earlier timing, observed in spring onset, spring and winter hydrology, zooplankton abundance, occurrence of several larval fishes, and diadromous fish migrations. Later timing was documented for fall onset, reproduction and fledging in Atlantic puffins, spring and fall phytoplankton blooms, and occurrence of additional larval fishes. Changes in event duration generally increased and were detected in zooplankton peak abundance, early life history periods of macro-invertebrates, and lobster fishery landings. Reduced duration was observed in winter–spring ice-affected stream flows. Two studies projected phenological changes, both finding diapause duration would decrease in zooplankton under future climate scenarios. Phenological responses were species-specific and varied depending on the environmental driver, spatial, and temporal scales evaluated. Overall, a wide range of baseline phenology and relevant modeling studies exist, yet surprisingly few document long-term shifts. Results reveal a need for increased emphasis on phenological shifts in the Gulf of Maine and identify opportunities for future research and consideration of phenological changes in adaptation efforts.

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Staudinger, M. D., Mills, K. E., Stamieszkin, K., Record, N. R., Hudak, C. A., Allyn, A., … Yakola, K. (2019). It’s about time: A synthesis of changing phenology in the Gulf of Maine ecosystem. Fisheries Oceanography. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1111/fog.12429

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