Climate Change and the Phenology of Marine Animals

Climate change is causing species to shift their phenology, or the timing of recurring life events such as migration and reproduction, in variable and complex ways. This can potentially result in mismatches or asynchronies in food and habitat resources that negatively impact individual fitness, population dynamics, and ecosystem function. Numerous studies have evaluated phenological shifts in terrestrial species, particularly birds and plants, yet far fewer evaluations have been conducted for marine animals. With Michelle Staudinger from the Northeast Climate Science Center, Jordaan and his lab are working to improve our understanding of shifts in the timing of seasonal migration, spawning or breeding, and biological development (i.e. life stages present, dominant) of coastal fishes, marine mammals, and migratory shore and seabirds along the U.S Atlantic coast. Ideally, we will compare whether fish, marine mammals, shore and seabird predators are shifting their phenology at different rates than their primary prey and optimal habitat conditions, thus influencing trophic interactions and population dynamics. A comprehensive literature review will be conducted simultaneous to data collection and synthesis to determine what is known, and what gaps exist in knowledge, interprtation or data regarding regional phenological responses of coastal species to climate change. Project results will help managers assess the vulnerability of coastal species to climate change by providing information on how they are responding to impacts in the region.