Long-term ocean and resource dynamics in a hotspot of climate change

Heike K. Lotze*, Stefanie Mellon, Jonathan Coyne, Matthew Betts, Meghan Burchell, Katja Fennel, Marisa A. Dusseault, Susanna D. Fuller, Eric Galbraith, Lina Garcia Suarez, Laura de Gelleke, Nina Golombek, Brianne Kelly, Sarah D. Kuehn, Eric Oliver, Megan Mackinnon, Wendy Muraoka, Ian T.G. Predham, Krysten Rutherford, Nancy ShackellOwen Sherwood, Elizabeth C. Sibert, Markus Kienast

*Corresponding author for this work

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The abundance, distribution, and size of marine species are linked to temperature and nutrient regimes and are profoundly affected by humans through exploitation and climate change. Yet little is known about long-term historical links between ocean environmental changes and resource abundance to provide context for current and potential future trends and inform conservation and management. We synthesize >4000 years of climate and marine ecosystem dynamics in a Northwest Atlantic region currently undergoing rapid changes, the Gulf of Maine and Scotian Shelf. This period spans the late Holocene cooling and recent warming and includes both Indigenous and European influence. We compare environmental records from instrumental, sedimentary, coral, and mollusk archives with ecological records from fossils, archaeological, historical, and modern data, and integrate future model projections of environmental and ecosystem changes. This multidisciplinary synthesis provides insight into multiple reference points and shifting baselines of environmental and ecosystem conditions, and projects a near-future departure from natural climate variability in 2028 for the Scotian Shelf and 2034 for the Gulf of Maine. Our work helps advancing integrative end-to-end modeling to improve the predictive capacity of ecosystem forecasts with climate change. Our results can be used to adjust marine conservation strategies and network planning and adapt ecosystem-based management with climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1142-1184
Number of pages43
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Climate change
  • environmental archives
  • future projections
  • historical reconstruction
  • marine conservation planning
  • shifting baselines


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