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Research & Center News: Spring/Summer 2010

Carbon Mitigation Initiative

The Cooperative Institute for Climate Science (CICS)

Understanding the effects of global climate change on marine fisheries productivity due to changes in water temperature, ocean currents and other ocean conditions is the focus of a recent of study by William Cheung and other researchers from the Sea Around Us Project in collaboration with CICS researchers Jorge Sarmiento and Kelly Kearney.

Looking at potential changes in food security due to changing climate, the study used a dynamic bioclimate envelope model that links the geographic range of specific fish species to a variety of ocean parameters, such as water temperature, primary productivity levels, sea ice location, etc. The researchers then used the output of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) CM2.1 coupled climate model and a suite of empirical primary production models to see how the distributions of different fish species might change under high- and low-emission climate scenarios.

The calculation included 1,066 commercially exploited fish and shellfish species from a wide range of taxonomic groups, ranging from krill, shrimps, anchovy and cod to tuna and sharks, that combined to produce 70% of reported global fish landings as reported by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization for 2000 to 2004.

The model predicted that globally, the maximum total catch potential in 2055 would change very little from current levels. However, it showed an overall shift of catch potential regionally, with increases of 30-70% at high latitudes and decreases of up to 40% at low latitudes. Many of the low-latitude areas that showed decreases of catch potential coincide with the most socioeconomically vulnerable areas.

The researchers conclude that regional changes in maximum fisheries catch potential may have large implications for global food security, particularly in vulnerable areas of the world that rely on fisheries for food and income.

This study results from a research partnership between the Sea Around Us Project and CICS investigators at Princeton University. The Sea Around Us Project is a collaboration between the University of British Columbia and the Pew Environment Group, focused on analyzing the impacts of fisheries on marine ecosystems. Sea Around Us Project database.

Center for BioComplexity

Conference Identifies Research Priorities for Sustainability Science

Simon Levin
Simon Levin (top photo) addresses participants at the "Toward a Science of Sustainability" conference, Airlie House, Warrenton, Virginia; Simon Levin (bottom right) with Jill Jager (left) from the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) in Vienna Austria, and Billie L. Turner (middle) from Arizona State University. (Photos: Carole Levin)

The human population continues to grow, and the effects of that expansion are magnified by increases in per capita demands for food, energy and other natural resources crucial to human welfare. Economic growth is essential to support the accelerating demands, but must be carried out in ways that sustain for future generations the same choices that we enjoy today. The Brundtland Report (1987) recognized this, calling for “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” but it left unresolved how sustainability should be defined and how it might be achieved.

Addressing these issues raises scientific questions that cross disciplines, from the humanities to the social sciences to the natural and physical sciences and engineering, and hence creates challenges for funding agencies in developing a research agenda on sustainability. In response, and with the support of all six research Directorates of the National Science Foundation, the Center for BioComplexity hosted a workshop entitled “Toward a Science of Sustainability” at the Airlie Center in Warrenton, Virginia from November 29–December 2, 2009.

Directed by Simon Levin (Princeton) and William Clark (Harvard), this workshop assembled an international team of scientists and practitioners from a broad spectrum of disciplines to produce a report outlining core research needs in building a science of sustainability.

Working groups explored measures of human welfare, problems of intra-generational and inter-generational equity, environmental and socioeconomic systems as complex adaptive systems, implications for dealing with public goods, the increasing interconnectedness of coupled natural and human systems, and the design of more effective, equitable and robust management regimes. It is expected the report to NSF will play a key role as NSF develops its own research agenda.