2023 sCIENCE PLAN dEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP
BECI continues to build high-level Science and Implementation Plans with the objective of developing an international ocean intelligence system for the North Pacific Ocean that harnesses data through analytical infrastructure to provide timely information on impacts of current and future climate on open ocean ecosystems.
From March 13-17, 2023, scientists representing both sides of the Pacific Ocean convened for the 2023 BECI Science Plan Development Workshop - a hybrid meeting that took place in Victoria, B.C. This interdisciplinary team of 28 scientists from Canada, the United States, Korea, Russia, and China included physical and biological oceanographers, climate-ocean-fisheries modelers, climatologists, salmon and marine fish ecologists, and data specialists.
The goal of this workshop was to further develop more detailed components of a draft, high-level BECI Science Plan for consideration by PICES Governing Council as a PICES Special Project.
BECI Science Plan Rationale:
Increasingly extreme and unpredictable climate events are becoming more frequent. Recent reports of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make it clear that climate change is impacting oceans and their ecosystems, including fish and their associated fisheries. Specific findings from the IPCC Assessment Report and summary findings from the IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate help form a valuable part of the rationale for the BECI project. These findings include:
- Climate change has caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible changes in terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems.
- Ocean warming and ocean acidification have adversely affected food production from shellfish aquaculture and fisheries in some oceanic regions.
- The future vulnerability of ecosystems to climate change will be strongly influenced by the past, present, and future development of human society.
- Ocean warming has contributed to observed changes in the biogeography of organism ranging from phytoplankton to marine mammals, consequently changing community composition.
- Warming-induced changes in the spatial distribution and abundance of fish stocks have already challenged the management of some important fisheries and their economic benefits.
- Socioinstitutional adaptation responses are important tools to address climate change impacts.
COMPONENTS OF THE BECI PROGRAM
Through consultations and discussions with experts, the 2022 BECI Workshop Series, and building off the lessons learned from the International Year of the Salmon Initiative, five major components were identified as the basis of the BECI Project. The 2023 BECI Workshop was designed to address these major components to build the BECI Science Plan.
Each component of BECI will require specific attention, but it is critical that each component is designed and executed to connect across all other components, and for this to be maintained through the project. BECI does not consider these components to operate autonomously, but in synthesis.
The five identified components of BECI:
- DATA MOBILIZATION
- OBSERVATION AND MONITORING
- TARGETED AT-SEA RESEARCH
- OUTREACH AND COMMUNICATION
We have evidence that our ability to predict based on past history is declining, and the lions share of variability in climate projections is driven by long-term trends, not initialization, which is why projections on seasonal-decadal scales are the last accurate. But the skill of seasonal to decadal projections may be improved – through methods such as a large model ensembles and regional downscaling, among others.
Workshop 1 of the 2022 BECI Workshop Series considered the use of multi-model ensembles and global climate models to develop more regional down-scaled models to project future conditions, and concluded that the ecological forecasting on a decadal to seasonal time scale is the most needed and the most challenging. Weather and climate operate at global scales, with tight integration between the atmosphere, ocean, and land. Different processes dominate the variability at different spatio-temporal scales, hence the different modeling approaches used to address questions in different parts of the spectrum. BECI hopes to focus on models with a seasonal to decadal (1 month to 10 years) timescale. This regime uses estimates from changing boundary conditions often modeled in large spatio-temporal scales (>10 years) and data-constrained initial conditions used in very short time scales (<1 month).
Output from CGM/ESM models (or ensembles of the same) can be used directly as input to global Fisheries Ecosystem Models, to help better understand and project the long-term impacts of climate change on fisheries and marine ecosystems and help inform policy. The Fish-MIP project is a useful example, as it is a network of marine ecosystem modelers who use multiple ecosystem models, all forced by standardized inputs and scenarios. Fish-MIP uses combinations of ESMs and representative concentration pathways (RCPs) to provide model inputs along with simplified fishing scenarios. These next-generation ensemble projections reveal higher climate risks for marine ecosystems. However, the relatively coarse spatial scale of these GCMs/ESMs mean that they generally cannot resolve key oceanographic features that are known to be critical in controlling the distribution (and potentially the abundance) of most marine species – a challenge that BECI hopes to address.
The Big Picture
Physical-biogeochemical models can be used with the assimilation of observations to produce an optimal estimate of the current state of the marine environment (nowcasts), and the past state of the environment (hindcasts, reanalysis). They can also variously be used to make predictions for the future state of the environment on weekly timescales, seasonal-decadal timescales, and on multi-decadal to century long timescales. This physical-biogeochemical information can then be used to directly inform metrics on the past, current, or future states of the environment, and can provide inputs to downstream ecosystem models, or other types of analyses.
Resource management decisions are made every day but linking them to the “best available science” is not easy. Finding, integrating, and sharing all previously collected data for the North Pacific has been a significant barrier towards understanding its ecosystems and supporting management decisions. An effective and efficient system that enables access, integration, and synthesis of data will open doors to new understandings and applications for the ocean science community. One function of the BECI ocean intelligence system will be harvesting and integrating data observations (in situ, satellites) and model outputs to support recommendations about the state of the North Pacific Ocean at different temporal and spatial scales, which will eventually inform various systems of governance and management.
The need to effectively mobilize data is crucial to the BECI project. The BECI 2023 Science Plan Workshop breakout groups identified some key goals for the data mobilization component of BECI:
- Identify and prioritize specific data needs.
- Identify, recover, and make available critical historical data and information.
- Develop collaborations with existing organizations to hold/manage data to support BECI objectives with a federated data approach.
- Collaborate with existing efforts to support standardization of methodologies and data, as recommended by the UN Decade.
- Evaluate and implement advanced approaches to allow for automated data discovery and analysis, including those based on machine-learning to fully extract information from the assembled data.
OBSERVATION AND MONITORING
Responding to the rapid rates of chemical, physical, and biological changes in the ocean is becoming increasingly important. However, our ability to observe the ocean and model ocean processes is also changing rapidly. More than ever, we should be utilizing newly available tools and technologies to develop intelligent systems connecting ocean information to ocean resource understanding and applications. New observations are required to constantly develop and refine ecosystem models. . Participants stressed that we are now IN the period of disruptive climate change, and this information is desperately needed to assist in current decision-making.
Workshop participants were clear that the expected improvements in climate and ecosystem models are not likely to fill information gaps in the short-term. There is an urgent need to acquire and analyze additional data to support in-season management measures and detect the development of anomalous conditions. If BECI’s improved models predict anomalous conditions, we will still need complementary near real-time data to support the modeling results and increase confidence in any management decisions based on such results.
There are remarkable new autonomous (and cost-effective) observing technologies coming online. In many cases, the data provided will not be the same data that we might select in the absence of cost limitations, but data volumes will be much larger than in the past. This will require some innovative approaches to extract the maximum amount of information useful for BECI purposes from the rapidly increasing stream of indirect measurements of the ecosystem.
TARGETED AT-SEA RESEARCH
Experience gained from the International Year of the Salmon initiative is that targeted, dedicated at-sea research using a combination of traditional sampling techniques (e.g., trawl tows), complemented with modern/emerging analytic approaches (e.g., eDNA, real-time genetic stock identification) can be highly productive. While acknowledging the power of such surveys, workshop participants cautioned that scaling up such vessel-based surveys as the 2022 Pan-Pacific Winter High Seas Expedition for the entire North Pacific Ocean was not a viable or responsible approach. Instead, recommendations were made that BECI focus primarily on various forms of autonomous or opportunistic samplings or measurements and aims to fill gaps in current understanding or the greatest uncertainties identified by modeling. Although not a comprehensive approach, BECI will work towards the most effective use of at-sea monitoring through careful analysis.
OUTREACH AND COMMUNICATION
Effective outreach and communication are crucial for a project encompassing the basin-scale and scope of BECI. Collaborative, international coordination and communication amongst researchers and modelers, together with a synthesis of data across the North Pacific are just some of the requirements of an effective communication strategy ensuring BECI can meet its objectives. Communication between and amongst the various actors and audiences along the BECI-user journey is needed; including modelers and researchers, management organizations, government agencies and industry, coastal and Indigenous communities. Developing outreach and communication for BECI will be a diverse and complex process but will create information networks that are accessible to a wide range of audiences, rightsholders and stakeholders.
Each component of BECI will require specific outreach and communication strategies that will work together to create an overarching communication plan.
The 2022 and 2023 BECI workshop series provided unique opportunities to discuss the building of the BECI science plan with experts from across the Northern Hemisphere. Through these discussions, major challenges and needs were identified and from this, recommendations for BECI as a solution were suggested:
- Existing approaches for factoring environmental change into fisheries management decision making based on extrapolation from historical responses are failing or at risk
- In addition to longstanding challenges associated with managing fisheries in a changing climate, there is a growing need to support other conservation objectives in marine ecosystems, including various types of protected areas, both within and outside of national jurisdictions. Climate change presents some serious challenges in defining effective protected areas and the ongoing evaluation of their effectiveness. While these challenges are different from the challenges for managing fisheries in a changing climate, the information needs are similar.
- The physical structure of key indices currently used to account for changing ocean conditions are changing and compromise the effectiveness of this approach
- We are experiencing conditions that are well outside the historical range of observations; such extreme conditions are resulting in major changes in the distribution and abundance of species
- Our ability to model key processes is hampered by critical knowledge gaps
- BECI needs to be regional to basin scale and international
- A better ability to forecast or provide plausible future scenarios to guide decision-making, particularly those decisions which imply longer-term adjustments to allocation, investment, community health, and international management arrangements
- To address the problem of increasingly less relevant historical data driving modeling efforts, BECI will require new observations and mobilization of key historical data to help detect anomalous conditions at an early stage
- BECI will need to substantially improve the communication amongst data providers, analysts, decision makers, and impacted sectors and communities; two-way communication is critical
- BECI can address key knowledge gaps through new observations using new technologies, with some knowledge gaps requiring new carefully targeted at-sea observations