Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

As climate changes, Alaska fisheries may depend on winter survival of plankton, oceanographer suggests

Date:
February 24, 2014
Source:
University of Rhode Island
Summary:
As the climate warms, the productivity of Alaska fisheries will be increasingly dependent on the survival rate of plankton through the winter months, new research by a large team of scientists suggests. And warming temperatures may make it difficult for them to survive the season. The health of the Bering Sea fisheries off the coast of Alaska depend largely on the plankton blooms that occur as the sea ice retreats in spring. Sunlight causes phytoplankton to bloom, which provides food to copepods and other zooplankton that are fed upon by fish, crabs and other commercial species. Changes in the timing of the melting of sea ice in spring is expected to have far-reaching effects on the health of the ecosystem, but the importance of winter plankton survival is an unexpected finding from this study.

The health of the Bering Sea fisheries off the coast of Alaska depend largely on the plankton blooms that occur as the sea ice retreats in spring. Sunlight causes phytoplankton to bloom, which provides food to copepods and other zooplankton that are fed upon by fish, crabs and other commercial species.

Related Articles


But new research by a large team of scientists suggests that, as the climate warms, the productivity of the fisheries will be increasingly dependent on the survival rate of plankton through the winter months. And warming temperatures may make it difficult for them to survive the season.

Results of the research will be presented this week in Honolulu at the biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting, sponsored by the American Geophysical Union, The Oceanographic Society, and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

University of Rhode Island oceanographer Robert Campbell, a member of the Bering Sea Project funded by the North Pacific Research Board and the National Science Foundation, said that changes in the timing of the melting of sea ice in spring was expected to have far-reaching effects on the health of the ecosystem, but the importance of winter plankton survival was unexpected.

"It turns out that when we change the spring ice conditions in our models, we don't see as large an effect on the system's productivity as we expected," said Campbell, a marine scientist at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography. "But overwintering survival changes the productivity of the system. That's very important, and we still don't really understand what happens."

According to Campbell, there is little food available for plankton to eat during the winter months, so they enter a state of dormancy called diapause, when their metabolism slows allowing them to go extended periods without eating. But if water temperatures increase, the plankton may emerge from diapause early, increasing their metabolism and burning through their stored fats before food becomes available.

These findings come from computer models created to study the western Arctic ecosystem, but few direct studies of the ecosystem in winter have been conducted due to the challenging environmental conditions. So Campbell said a great deal is still to be learned about winter plankton survival.

"Maybe they will be able to adapt; maybe they don't raise their metabolism so high. We just don't know," Campbell said.

The one winter study of the region, conducted in 2011 and funded by the National Science Foundation, found that plankton in the Bering Sea may not enter a state of diapause after all.

"Based on the measurements we took, they probably can't survive the winter without lowering their metabolic rates further as the winter season progresses, but they don't appear to go into a hibernation state as we expected," Campbell said.

"Many of the animals we studied were copepods, which usually go down to depth to hibernate. But in the Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea there are expansive continental shelves, so there is no deepwater refuge for them to go to. That makes them more vulnerable to climate change because they have no refuge from the increasing temperatures," he added.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rhode Island. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Rhode Island. "As climate changes, Alaska fisheries may depend on winter survival of plankton, oceanographer suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140224171303.htm>.
University of Rhode Island. (2014, February 24). As climate changes, Alaska fisheries may depend on winter survival of plankton, oceanographer suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140224171303.htm
University of Rhode Island. "As climate changes, Alaska fisheries may depend on winter survival of plankton, oceanographer suggests." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140224171303.htm (accessed February 27, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, February 27, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

Death Toll from Afghan Avalanches Tops 200

AFP (Feb. 27, 2015) More than 200 people have been killed in a series of avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall in Afghanistan. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

France, Philippines Call for Agreement on Climate Change

Reuters - News Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) The presidents of France and the Philippines issue a joint appeal for a binding agreement on climate change. Katie Sargent reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Big Melt: Antarctica's Retreating Ice

The Big Melt: Antarctica's Retreating Ice

AP (Feb. 27, 2015) From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can&apos;t be seen is the battle raging underfoot to re-shape Earth. Water is eating away at the Antarctic ice. (Feb. 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

Winter Storm Means Dangerous Driving in South

AP (Feb. 26, 2015) A new winter storm is stretching across the south, making travel treacherous throughout the region. (Feb. 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins