The influence of climate and habitat on the distribution and ecology of coastal and pelagic fish species in the North Atlantic using joint modeling

Sarah Roberts, Duke University, Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, Durham, NC, United States; Duke University, Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab, Durham, United States
Understanding the impacts of climate change on fish species has primarily considered ocean warming and the limited thermal tolerance of species, largely ignoring other important drivers of fish species distributions. In this project, I model the influence of ocean temperatures as well as other ecologically important predictor variables such as benthic substrate, salinity, and key climate and oceanic processes such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), the position of the gulf stream, oceanographic variability, salinity and biotic interactions on the abundance and distribution of marine fish species along the Northeast US Continental Shelf. Additionally, the current strategy for predicting the potential impacts of climate change on species distributions identifies an ecological niche for species and predicts shift in distributions based on current environmental relationships. These strategies assume that species’ environmental associations will not change and are in equilibrium. In contrast, I identify species that have shifted environmental associations over time and argue that these historical shifts in environmental associations will help inform the predictability of species distributions under climate change.