The Gulf of Alaska is an excellent “test bed” for understanding linkages between climate, commercial fishing, and ecological responses. Long-term data sets are available for many populations, and relatively well-understood warm and cold “regimes” governed the biology of this ecosystem for much of the 20th century.
With support from Alaska Sea Grant, we showed that historical collapses of shrimp and crab fisheries in the Gulf (and the Bering Sea) were proceeded by periods of rising variability in commercial landings – one of the only demonstrations of early warning indicators in commercial fisheries data. (See the paper in Ecological Applications.) With support from the National Science Foundation, we are attempting to take understanding of climate-biology links beyond the warm regime/cold regime paradigm. This study is focused on nonlinear climate variability – relationships between fundamental climate processes that change over time – and how the complex patterns of climate variability that result force changes in the ecosystem.