The ecosystems of the subarctic Pacific and Bering Sea are ideal candidates for a U.S. GLOBEC research program. The region supports some of the world's largest populations of commercially important fish and shellfish resources. These abundant resources appear to be sensitive to the geographical distribution of the changes in the atmosphere-ocean climate system. Both short-term (seasonal) and long-term (decadal) climate variations appear to significantly impact the biological environment (see collection of papers in Beamish, 1995; Beamish and McFarlane, 1989, U.S. GLOBEC 1996)
These strong biological responses to climatic variability translate into direct impacts on the efficiency and sustainability of the region's valuable fishing industry. Approximately one half of the total U.S. fisheries catch is removed from waters off the coast of Alaska (NMFS 1993). Elucidation of influences of climate change on these natural resources could have important benefits to the Nation by improving our knowledge of functional relationships between climatic conditions and biological production that would allow for the development of long-range plans for resource conservation and management.
Initiating a U.S. GLOBEC research program in the subarctic Pacific and Bering Sea is timely because of the coincidental development of an international research program on Climate Change and the Carrying Capacity (CCCC) of the North Pacific sponsored by the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES) and GLOBEC International. The PICES-GLOBEC CCCC program is a cooperative research program sponsored by the national research programs of the six member nations of PICES (Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States). A U.S. GLOBEC program in the North Pacific would utilize newly developed research tools and technologies to study questions of climate change and carrying capacity of the subarctic Pacific and Bering Sea. These include measurement technologies and complex computer models which make a large scale research program like the one proposed here, a realistic endeavor.
Both U.S. GLOBEC and PICES-GLOBEC recommend research at the basin and regional scale. Regional scale studies will occur in the coastal waters of each member nation of PICES. The next steps in developing the CCCC implementation plan on the regional scale are expected to include efforts to design comparisons of ecosystem properties and responses to climate variability. Basin- scale research will require the development of an international cooperative program. This Science Plan details potential research activities of a U.S. GLOBEC program in the subarctic Pacific and the Bering Sea.