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Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 519–559 | Cite as

Effects of climate change on Canada’s Pacific marine ecosystems: a summary of scientific knowledge

  • Thomas A. OkeyEmail author
  • Hussein M. Alidina
  • Veronica Lo
  • Sabine Jessen
Research Paper

Abstract

The marine life of Canada’s Pacific marine ecosystems, adjacent to the province of British Columbia, may be relatively responsive to rapid oceanographic and environmental change associated with global climate change due to uniquely evolved plasticities and resiliencies as well as particular sensitivities and vulnerabilities, given this dynamic and highly textured natural setting. These marine ecosystems feature complex interfaces of coastal geomorphology, climate, and oceanography, including a dynamic oceanographic and ecological transition zone formed by the divergence of the North Pacific Current into the Alaskan coastal current and the California Current, and by currents transporting warm tropical waters from the south. Despite long-term warming in the region, sea surface temperatures in Canada’s Pacific have been anomalously cool since 2007 with La Niña-type conditions prevailing as we enter a cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, possibly masking future warming. When warmer El Niño conditions prevail, many southern species invade, strongly impacting local species and reorganizing biological communities. Acidification and deoxygenation are anomalously high in the region due to the weakening ventilation of subsurface waters resulting from increased stratification. A broad spectrum of biological responses to these changes are expected. Non-climate anthropogenic stressors affect the capacity of biota to adapt to climate changes. It will be challenging to forecast the responses of particular species, and to map climate vulnerabilities accurately enough to help prioritize and guide adaptation planning. It will be more challenging to develop forecasts that account for indirect effects within biological communities and the intricate and apparently non-deterministic behaviours of highly complex and variable marine ecosystems, such as those of Canada’s Pacific. We recommend and outline national and regional climate assessments in Canada and adaptation planning and implementation including integrated coastal management and marine spatial planning and management.

Keywords

Climate change impacts Acidification Deoxygenation Climate adaptation Cumulative impacts Global marine hotspots 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We acknowledge Alvaro Montenegro for his initial contributions to this work as a co-author on Okey et al. (2012). We acknowledge and thank the many institutions and individuals including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Environment Canada (Canadian Wildlife Services), Natural Resources Canada (Geological Survey of Canada), Parks Canada, the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Royal Roads University, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Victoria, Philip Hill, Ben Kangasniemi, Dave Preikshot, Vaughn Barrie, Doug Biffard, Robin Brown, Frank Whitney, Mark Zacharias, Ken Morgan, Brian Bawtinheimer, Chris Harley, Marc Trudel, Kim Hyatt, Ian Perry, Bill Crawford, Robin Sydneysmith, Richard Carson, Audrey Dallimore, Colin Campbell, Isabel Côte, Caihong Fu, John Holmes, Cliff Robinson, Charlie Short, Kelly Francis, Sean Darling, Brian Hunt, and Desiree Tommasi. Special thanks to Robin Brown, Frank Whitney, Chris Harley, Doug Biffard, John Davis, Bill Crawford, Ian Perry, Barry Smit, Ric Brodeur, and Louise Blight for their valuable feedback, and to formal reviews by Ian Perry and Frank Whitney which improved this manuscript. SJ and Michele Paterson facilitated the initiation of the project that led to this work, and HMA coordinated later phases. We thank and acknowledge the Pew Environment Group, Pew Charitable Trusts for supporting the contribution of TAO through the Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation, and the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions for supporting SJ. This work emerged from a project executed by WWF-Canada and CPAWS-BC with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas A. Okey
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hussein M. Alidina
    • 3
  • Veronica Lo
    • 4
    • 5
  • Sabine Jessen
    • 4
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Environmental StudiesUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  2. 2.Ocean Integrity ResearchVictoriaCanada
  3. 3.WWF-CanadaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Canadian Parks and Wilderness SocietyVancouverCanada
  5. 5.University of Bologna, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, and Ghent UniversityRavennaItaly
  6. 6.Department of GeographySimon Fraser UniversityBurnabyCanada

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