Seasonal-to-interannual prediction of North American coastal marine ecosystems: Forecast methods, mechanisms of predictability, and priority developments uri icon

abstract

  • Marine ecosystem forecasting is an area of active research and rapid development. Promise has been shown for skillful prediction of physical, biogeochemical, and ecological variables on a range of timescales, suggesting potential for forecasts to aid in the management of living marine resources and coastal communities. However, the mechanisms underlying forecast skill in marine ecosystems are often poorly understood, and many forecasts, especially for biological variables, rely on empirical statistical relationships developed from historical observations. Here, we review statistical and dynamical marine ecosystem forecasting methods and highlight examples of their application along U.S. coastlines for seasonal-to-interannual (1–24 month) prediction of properties ranging from coastal sea level to marine top predator distributions. We then describe known mechanisms governing marine ecosystem predictability and how they have been used in forecasts to date. These mechanisms include physical atmospheric and oceanic processes, biogeochemical and ecological responses to physical forcing, and intrinsic characteristics of species themselves. In reviewing the state of the knowledge on forecasting techniques and mechanisms underlying marine ecosystem predictability, we aim to facilitate forecast development and uptake by (i) identifying methods and processes that can be exploited for development of skillful regional forecasts, (ii) informing priorities for forecast development and verification, and (iii) improving understanding of conditional forecast skill (i.e., a priori knowledge of whether a forecast is likely to be skillful). While we focus primarily on coastal marine ecosystems surrounding North America (and the U.S. in particular), we detail forecast methods, physical and biological mechanisms, and priority developments that are globally relevant.

publication date

  • April 2020