Resilience and Adaptation of a Coastal Ecological-Economic System in Response to Increasing Temperature

Kathy Mills
Created: 9/28/2016 - Updated: 6/18/2021

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This project aims to understand how abrupt temperature changes, as well as the long-term warming trend, impact marine ecosystems and fisheries. Fisheries provide a two-way connection between changing ocean environments and local economies. As the distribution and abundance of species change, where, when, and how many fish are caught will change. Fisheries also respond to economic conditions or management policies, leading to feedbacks onto fish populations. In order to understand the impact of warming on fisheries ecosystems, it is essential to account for dynamical interactions between populations, fisheries, and markets. Our work focuses on the Gulf of Maine, a region that is warming rapidly and has experienced previous single-year warm events (e.g., 1999, 2012). These warming events have had a profound impact on the region’s oceanography, species distributions, and the valuable lobster fishery. Understanding the environmental, ecological, and economic linkages in the lobster fishery is a central goal of our project. Towards this goal, we will do significant work to evaluate spatial and temporal variability in surface and bottom temperatures and their influence on changing distributions of species that interact with lobsters (e.g., groundfish) along the Northeast Shelf. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Key strategies and actions:

  • Incorporate climate change into stock assessments (e.g., document new species ranges and abundance, document food web impacts)
  • Monitor to detect species presence and absence correlated to changing environmental conditions
  • Diversity fisheries and/or livelihoods (e.g., ecotourism, promote new fishing opportunities for non-native and invasive species)


Mills, K. 2016. Resilience and Adaptation of a Coastal Ecological-Economic System in Response to Increasing Temperature. Summary of a project from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute funded by the National Science Foundation. Last updated September 2016.

Project Contact(s)

Andrew Pershing
Chief Scientific Officer

GMRI is a neutral, nonprofit organization that catalyzes solutions to the complex challenges of ocean stewardship and economic growth in the Gulf of Maine bioregion. Based in Portland, Maine, GMRI utilizes a dynamic fusion of science, education, and community to affect change from multiple directions while remaining committed to its core principles of objectivity and collaboration.


Scale of Project
Regional / Subnational
Sector Addressed
Development (socioeconomic)
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Culture / communities
Fishery harvest
Ocean acidification
Phenological shifts
Range shifts
Water temperature