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  • Developing end-to-end models of the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem


Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Conservation Biology CB - Ecosystem Science


California Current modeling
Developing end-to-end models of the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem
The purpose of this project is to develop spatially discrete end-to-end models of the California Current LME, linking oceanography, biogeochemistry, food web interactions, habitat, fisheries, economics, monitoring, and management into a common model framework. This framework allows for thought experiments, including evaluation of alternate management strategies, identifying robust indicators, and assessing relative importance of different ecosystem drivers in regulating important processes. NMFS personnel are conducting this work in broad collaboration with other NOAA scientists, academics, and NGOs. The specific work entails model development, scoping issues with stakeholders and policy makers, running scenarios, and analyzing and writing up the results. Products will include peer-reviewed papers, presentations, and workshops with modelers and/or stakeholders. Management audiences include NMFS west coast regions and the PFMC. The project is an on-going, stand-alone project with no firm deadline for completion.

Research Themes

Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
The California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, Puget Sound and the Columbia River Basin are home to a wide range of freshwater and marine resources that provide a wealth of ecosystem goods and services. Ensuring the resiliency and productivity of the California Current and Pacific Northwest ecosystems requires an integrated understanding of their structure, function, and vulnerability to increased human population growth in coastal communities and competing uses of coastal waterways and oceans. The NWFSC‘s approach to understanding these large ecosystems integrates studies across ecosystems (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine) and scientific disciplines to inform resource managers responsible for conserving marine resources.

Research Foci

Describe the interaction between human activities, particularly harvest of marine resources, and ecosystem function
Humans are an integral component of ecosystems. These ecosystems provide goods and services such as fish and seafood harvests, but these activities and others such as habitat alteration, pollution, and ocean acidification, can have strong impacts. Understanding the nature of these interactions will require observational and experimental studies aimed at identifying ecosystem-level responses to human activities, both individually and cumulatively, as well as human responses to ecosystem changes. Modeling spatial choices for harvesting and other human activities that are affected by ecosystem integrity, for example, can support a better understanding of the effects of ecosystembased management actions.
Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management
Fisheries scientists and managers recognize the potential for ecosystem-based management to improve sustain the delivery of ecosystem goods and services, including sustainable fisheries resources. An Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) is one approach that examines all available information on relevant physical, chemical, ecological and human processes in relation to specified ecosystem management objectives. IEAs provide an efficient, transparent means of summarizing the status of ecosystem components, screening and prioritizing potential risks, and evaluating alternative management strategies against a backdrop of environmental variability. To perform IEAs of major ecosystems will require development of project components, including new and existing data, to develop a suite of indicators that characterize the ecosystem. Careful assessment of ecosystem indicators will provide a powerful means for assessing management efficacy and a basis for adapting and improving management practices. A major focus will be to produce the initial IEA of the California Current LME and then provide annual updates.
Understand how climate influences ecosystem variability
Effective ecosystem management will require an understanding of how climate variability and climate change will alter riverine, estuarine, and marine habitats and consequently how this will affect ecosystem status, function and recovery. Key research elements include better understanding of historical ecological variability through traditional (i.e., indigenous) sources, exploring the vulnerability of key species and biotic communities to expected habitat changes, including decreasing stream flow, increased flood frequency, increasing stream temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification, shifts in ocean currents, and changed frequency and extent of deoxygenated zones. A secondary goal is to improve understanding of how ecosystems respond to year-to-year and decadal climate variability. Achieving these research goals will provide NOAA and state and local governments with the knowledge and tools needed to incorporate climate change and variability into management of living marine resources.


ecosystem modeling framework
climate change
changes in climate
economics of fishing fleets and shore-based industries
ecosystem modeling
end-to-end models
food web
complex of interrelated food chains in an ecological community
global change
climate change and ocean acidification
management strategy evaluation


None associated


Class Actinopterygii
ray-finned fishes
Class Aves
Class Elasmobranchii
Class Holocephali
Class Malacostraca
Class Mammalia
Class Ostracoda
mussel shrimp, ostracods, seed shrimp
Class Polychaeta
bristle worms
Class Thaliacea
Kingdom Plantae
Phylum Chaetognatha
arrow worms, arrow-worms, arrowworms
Phylum Cnidaria
Phylum Echinodermata
Phylum Mollusca
Phylum Nemertea
ribbon worms
Phylum Sipuncula
peanut worms, sipunculid worms


Chris Harvey
Isaac Kaplan
Principal Investigator
Phil Levin