North Pacific Climate Regimes and Ecosystem Productivity Program
This image has been released into the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. No endorsement by licensor implied.
Posted byRachel Gregg
The North Pacific Climate Regimes and Ecosystem Productivity (NPCREP) program is charged with conducting research on ecosystem responses to climate variability in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Research conducted through this program provides scientific data and guidance for marine resource managers in the North Pacific Ocean.
NPCREP was created in 2004 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and is supported by the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. The program was established to investigate climate change impacts on North Pacific marine ecosystems.
The three main tasks of the NPCREP include:
- Developing climate models to assist fishery managers with stock assessments and projections;
- Developing tools for use by fishery managers; and
- Providing relevant and accessible ecosystem data.
As part of its mission, the NPCREP provides the data and tools necessary for managers (including the North Pacific Fishery Management Council) to incorporate climate change into harvest rules and other management decisions that affect marine resources in the region.
The Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska are highly productive regions and support many marine species. Fisheries in Alaska account for more than half of the U.S. domestic seafood industry; these resources, and the subarctic region of Alaska in general, are expected to experience extreme climate variability and scientists are already noticing environmental changes. For example, large fluctuations in abundance—both decreases and increases—have been detailed in shrimp, red king crab, Steller sea lion, Alaska salmon, and elephant seal populations. Programs such as NPCREP identify and help managers understand how climate variability affects these resources and how human activities can be adjusted to manage resources sustainably in a changing climate.
Climate variability affects marine productivity, community structure, and species assemblages. The impacts of concern in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska include warmer air and water temperatures, loss of sea ice, and range shifts, which will affect the system’s trophic structure and fishery stock availability for human consumption. NPCREP’s research assists the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, State of Alaska, and other resource managers establish sustainable harvest policies and manage resources using an ecosystem-based approach.
NPCREP is conducting the following activities:
- Monitoring and observing the ecosystem to create a network to track climate variability and ecosystem responses;
- Investigating and interpreting how climate change affects the North Pacific;
- Assessing and projecting climate-induced changes;
- Advising and informing stakeholders to assist with coordination of information use and exchange and to provide technical support in applying information; and
- Providing relevant information to NOAA Fisheries, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, and the Alaska Fisheries Science Center’s annual Stock Assessment and Fisheries Evaluation.
NPCREP is a relatively small program and works cooperatively with other regional research efforts, including the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, Global Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC), North Pacific Research Board, Study of Environmental Arctic Change, and the Alaska Ocean Observing System, as well as federal agencies (e.g., NOAA, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) to achieve its goals. Challenges for such a long-term monitoring program include funding and ship time. For example, the removal of ships from the NOAA fleet rotation that are capable of oceanographic and fisheries observations has led to interruptions in the monitoring data.
Outcomes and Conclusions
NPCREP provides data, tools, and research that can be directly applied to incorporate climate variability into marine resource management. Some of the products NPCREP produces for NOAA and public use include ecosystem models, assessments and forecasts, an ecosystem monitoring network, and real-time ecosystem data for the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, which allows the North Pacific Fishery Management Council to check for trends and current updates and adjust management decisions accordingly.
Gregg, R. M. (2020). North Pacific Climate Regimes and Ecosystem Productivity Program [Case study on a project of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated May 2020)