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Biological oceanographers examine 'regime shifts' in complex marine ecosystems

nce of regime shifts. The scientists analyzed data on the commercially important haddock stock on Georges Bank off the coast of New England. This 69-year data set indicates that a regime shift in the haddock population occurred in 1965, most likely triggered by high fishing mortality.

"The difficulty in finding marine data that clearly demonstrate the occurrence of regime shifts in the ocean may be that, until recently, major disturbances in the oceans were of natural rather than anthropogenic (man-made) origin and our data collection following such disturbances has been insufficient to identify possible changes in ecosystems," said Collie.

"The assumption that major disturbances or perturbations of marine ecosystems will not result from human activities appears to no longer be valid," added Collie. "Marine ecosystems are increasingly influenced by human perturbations such as fishing, contamination, and the introduction of non-indigenous species. Fishing, in particular, has been identified as having a pervasive impact on marine ecosystems.

"In addition," said Collie, "with man-made induced climate change, we can no longer treat oceanic variability as being purely natural. Thus, there appears to be a very real possibility that anthropogenic activity may be sufficient to substantially perturb ecosystems. If such disturbance does provide the conditions for the occurrence of regime shifts, then understanding and identifying them becomes critical for developing responsible management strategies for the utilization of marine resources."


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Contact: Lisa Cugini
lcugini@gso.uri.edu
401-874-6642
University of Rhode Island
29-Apr-2004


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