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Loss of Sea Ice Workshop

On 3 May 2006, the AFSCís new Habitat and Ecological Processes Research (HEPR) convened a workshop to develop an implementation plan for a permanent, long-term research program directed at determining the impacts of the loss of sea ice in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Three independent but interrelated research themes were proposed for the Loss of Sea Ice (LOSI) program, which focus on loss of sea ice in different regions and seasons.

  • Theme 1 - Enhanced forecast capabilities through a focus on winter preconditioning and the influence of winter ocean conditions on the spawning distributions of commercially important fish and shellfish species
  • Theme 2 - Enhanced forecast model capabilities through a focus on ice-edge processes including the development of spring bloom and the foraging behavior and movement of ice-dependent seals
  • Theme 3 - Enhanced knowledge of stock status and trends, through expanded assessments and comparative approaches with focus on benthic-pelagic coupling.
 Loss of Sea Ice Workshop Participants
 Robyn Angliss (NMML/HEPR)
 Kerim Aydin (REFM)
 Janet Duffy-Anderson (RACE)
 Ron Felthoven (REFM)
 Jennifer Ferdinand (FMA/HEPR)
 Nancy Friday (NMML)
 Jon Heifetz (ABL/HEPR)
 Ron Heintz (ABL)
 Anne Hollowed (REFM/HEPR)
 Tom Hurst (RACE, Newport)
 Jim Ianelli (REFM)
 Libby Logerwell (REFM)
 Bern Megrey (RACE/HEPR)
 Jamal Moss (ABL)
 Jim Overland (PMEL)
 Clarence Pautzke (NPRB)
 Phil Rigby (ABL)
 Kim Shelden (NMML)
 Mike Sigler (HEPR)
 Dave Somerton (RACE)
 Phyllis Stabeno (PMEL)
 Jeremy Sterling (NMML)
 Buck Stockhausen (REFM)
 Francis Wiese (NPRB)
 Chris Wilson (RACE)

These themes have been incorporated into the draft LOSI implementation plan which will be finalized following a 19 July 2006 workshop. The HEPR group is working with Center Leadership and NMFS headquarters to fund the research themes outlined in the LOSI implementation plan. If successful, HEPR will seek integrated proposals from the AFSC and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) to implement the plan in spring 2009.

The impetus for the LOSI program stemmed from recent observations that the depth-averaged temperature of the eastern Bering Sea is warming and results of the Arctic Impact Assessment that indicate that climate change will have profound impacts on managed species in the Bering Sea. Scientists expect that in the next 50 years, these shifts will alter the spatial distribution and abundance of managed species in the Bering Sea, resulting in major changes to the Alaskan economy and the Bering Sea ecosystem. A research program targeting impacts of loss of sea ice is needed to study this unprecedented change within the historical record. Without a program in place now, the opportunity to monitor these changes will be foregone, and NOAA will be far less able to meet agency responsibilities for management of fish and marine mammal species.

Planning for the LOSI program in the Bering Sea was initiated by a series of intra- and interagency workshops. The workshops brought together an interdisciplinary group of scientists to discuss and review ideas for implementing research on the effects of climate on sea ice formation in the Bering Sea and its associated impact on living marine resources and habitat. The core elements of a joint AFSC/PMEL LOSI program were outlined in a proposal developed in April 2005 by the Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (FOCI) program and elaborated in reports on HEPR workshops conducted in June 2005, September 2005, and May 2006. Recognizing that efforts to understand the role of sea ice in the Bering Sea ecosystem would require an interagency coordinated effort employing the unique capabilities of each contributing agency also led to the formation of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Interagency Working Group (BIAW). The BIAW represents the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), the National Science Foundationís Bering Sea Ecosystem Study, the U. S. Geologic Survey, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alaska Ocean Observing System, the AFSC, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, and PMEL.

By Michael Sigler

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