Tracking Changes in North American Marine Species Distributions

Malin Pinsky Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ


Climate impacts marine ecosystems in many ways, but one of the clearest is through shifts in species distributions. Species in many regions of North America have already shifted in response to climate, and further shifts are expected in the future. For commercially and recreationally important species, including many species of coastal fish and invertebrates, shifts in species distributions have clear and immediate impacts on coastal communities, economies, and societies. For example, fisheries shift in search of fish, taking with them jobs and revenue that may not be easy to replace.

Understanding of these shifts, however, remains limited among policymakers and the public, in part because information on these shifts is scattered in the scientific literature, difficult to access, and often out-of-date. In two previous CINAR projects, we developed a suite of indicators of marine species' distribution shifts in North America along with visualization tools for sharing these indicators with the public. The indicators use data from federal (National Marine Fisheries Service) and state-run bottom trawl surveys. We developed software pipelines so that the indicators could be updated as new data became available. In this project, we will update the indicators with 2015, 2016, and 2017 data.