U.S. GLOBEC Program
The U.S. GLOBal Ocean ECosystems Dynamics (U.S. GLOBEC) program has a goal of
understanding how physical processes influence marine ecosystem dynamics in order to predict the
response of the ecosystem and the stability of its food web to climate change. The program proposes
to accomplish this goal by (1) undertaking field studies in several ocean ecosystem types, (2)
developing models of the biological and physical systems, particularly focusing on the mechanistic
coupling of the biology and physics, (3) developing improved technologies to sample the ocean
environment, but more importantly encouraging wider application of existing, underutilized
technologies to sample the ocean, and (4) examining or re-examining existing data sets in a
retrospective fashion, to both guide future sampling programs and to document past variability due to
both natural and anthropogenic factors.
U.S. GLOBEC's Initial Science Plan (U.S. GLOBEC, 1991a) identified specific criteria for the
selection of field study sites. Those criteria include: a demonstrable linkage of the field program to
climate change; a focus on secondary producers in the marine ecosystem, including zooplankton, fish
and benthos; demographically and/or geographically distinct populations are to be the focus, since one
must be able to define a population in order to study that population's fluctuations; the research must
ultimately lead to better understanding of how the population dynamics of the target species are related
to physical processes, many of which may be modified by climate change; ideally, U.S. GLOBEC
study sites would have sufficient historical data on both physics and biology to provide a longer term
context for field studies of 5-7 year duration, and to assist in planning the research and verifying
models of the system; and finally, to the extent possible, U.S. GLOBEC field studies should be
integrated both with other global change programs, and with international collaborators.
The Initial Science Plan identified several ecosystems that satisfied most of the criteria provided above:
(1) Georges Bank, (2) a Pacific Basin study; (3) an Arabian Sea study; and, (4) a Southern Ocean
study. The Georges Bank study was started in 1992. U.S. GLOBEC has funded planning meetings
and developed, or assisted in the development, of GLOBEC science plans for studies in the Arabian
Sea, the Southern Ocean, and the California Current.
U.S. GLOBEC's intent in all its field studies is to begin by funding modeling and retrospective
projects before committing to large, and expensive, field programs. This plan was followed
successfully in the Georges Bank program. In the spring of 1995 we began our Southern Ocean
program similarly, by soliciting modeling proposals of relevance to Southern Ocean ecosystems. We
expect that GLOBEC field studies in the Southern Ocean will commence several years from now.
The Initial Science Plan identified several regions in the eastern North Pacific that might be suitable
sites for intensive U.S. GLOBEC field studies: (1) an eastern boundary current ecosystem as typified
by the California Current; (2) a buoyancy-driven coastal current ecosystem as typified by the Pacific
Northwest and Alaska continental margin, including the Bering Sea; and, (3) an open ocean ecosystem
as typified by the Alaska Gyre. Of these, planning for a program in the California Current is
advanced, with several meetings leading to the production of a report on the relation between climate
and the ecosystem (U.S. GLOBEC, 1992) and a Science Plan for the California Current (U.S.
GLOBEC, 1994). The California Current Science Plan identifies four major questions that GLOBEC
should address. They relate to (1) seasonal-to-interannual variability in biological responses, (2)
decadal and longer variability in biological responses, (3) mesoscale variability in biological
responses, and (4) latitudinal gradients in biological responses. Details of the proposed U.S.
GLOBEC California Current program can be obtained from the U.S. GLOBEC office in Berkeley, CA
or from the World-Wide Web at URL:
PICES/GLOBEC CCCC Program
History of PICES-GLOBEC Climate Change and Carrying Capacity (CCCC) Initiative
PICES is an intergovernmental organization established in 1992 to promote and coordinate marine scientific research in the temperate and subarctic region of the North Pacific and its adjacent seas. PICES members are Canada, China, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States. At its First Annual Meeting in 1992 PICES created Working Group 3, on Dynamics of Small Pelagics in Coastal Ecosystems, and Working Group 6 (WG6), on the Subarctic Gyre (WG3).
Terms of reference for WG3 included:
- Develop a program for a comparative study of the population dynamics and productivity
of small pelagics (focusing on herring, sardine, anchovy, and mackerel) in the coastal ecosystems
along the western and eastern continental margins of the North Pacific.
Terms of reference of WG6 included:
Reports of the two Working Groups are contained in PICES Scientific Report No. 1 (PICES, 1993)
which includes WG6's review of the Subarctic Pacific, with summaries of its physics and biology
(phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish). Recommendations to the Science Board included two that are
particularly relevant to the current workshop:
- Review existing information on the carrying capacity for salmon and other nektonic species in the
subarctic, and what is known about variations in the carrying capacity of this region in response to
climate change. Advise on how changes in carrying capacity could be quantified.
- Review existing level of knowledge of the processes affecting primary and secondary
production in this region and identify information gaps. Advise on how these gaps could be studied.
- Identify key scientific questions, and propose collaborative programs which can be
conducted to advance knowledge and test major hypotheses.
- Determine relationships to GLOBEC. Advise which PICES and GLOBEC objectives could
The PICES Second Annual Meeting (fall 1993) authorized preparation of a draft Science Plan for
what was called the PICES GLOBEC-International Program on Climate Change and Carrying
Capacity (CCCC). The Plan was then discussed at a workshop and approved at the PICES Third
Annual Meeting (fall 1994) where it was agreed to establish a Scientific Steering Committee (now
called Implementation Group) to initiate development of an implementation plan. An Executive
Committee of that Group met in May 1995 to prepare a draft for review and revision during the
summer (a preliminary draft was available at the Seattle Workshop in April 1995).
- PICES should support GLOBEC activities in the North Pacific region, especially those directed
towards understanding the physical and biological oceanographic linkages to long term variations in
zooplankton and fish populations.
- A scientific workshop should be organized in 1994 on a "PICES-GLOBEC Program for the
North Pacific Ocean. The purpose would be to develop and plan further collaborative research
programs between PICES and International GLOBEC for the North Pacific Ocean.
The CCCC Science Plan emphasizes that research activities are anticipated on two spatial scales:
The Key Scientific Questions postulated in the Science Plan have since been consolidated into the set
of so-called Central Scientific Issues presented on page 1. Key research activities related to these
issues will include retrospective analyses, development of models, process studies, development of
observational systems, and data management. The next steps in developing the CCCC implementation
plan on the regional scale are expected to include efforts to design the proposed comparison of
ecosystem properties and responses to climate variability in cooperation with national GLOBEC
programs. On the basin scale, a more comprehensive effort to develop an international cooperative
program will be required.
- Basin-scale studies to determine how plankton productivity and the carrying capacity for
high–trophic level pelagic carnivores in the North Pacific change in response to climate variations.
- Regional scale ecosystem studies comparing how variations in ocean climate affect species
dominance and fish populations at the coastal margins of the Pacific Rim.
The North Pacific is an attractive site for a U.S. GLOBEC program for several reasons. Many
commercial industries in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska are heavily dependent on natural resources.
For example, approximately half of the total U.S. fisheries catch is removed from waters off the coast
of Alaska (Anon. 1993). Many studies have shown a strong connection between climatic variables
and indices of fish abundance and distribution in the North Pacific (see collection of papers Beamish
1995, and Beamish and McFarlane 1989). These strong responses to climatic change translate into
direct impacts on the efficiency and sustainability of the region's fishing industry. Elucidation of long
term influences of climate change on these natural resources could have important benefits to the nation
by improving our knowledge of functional relationships between climatic conditions and biological
production that would allow for the development of long range plans for resource conservation and
The North Pacific is the location of one of the major storm tracks in the northern hemisphere.
Simulation models suggest that the southern side of the Arctic front will be the region of greatest
alteration due to global climate change. The storm track responds to two global teleconnection
patterns, 1) the West Pacific oscillation that influences the location of storm generation and 2) the
Pacific-North American (PNA) pattern that influences the track of storms across the Subarctic Pacific.
The PNA pattern is often considered the major mode of planetary variability of the atmosphere. We
can hypothesize the shift in storm frequency and track due to climate change, and its potential impact
on the physical environment (see Climate Change scenarios). Any systematic shifts that occur will be
modulated by the large natural variability that exists on time scales from seasonal to millennia. This
variability has a profound impact on circulation, mixed layer depths and the extent of ice coverage, all
of which influence the rich biological resources of the Subarctic Pacific and Bering Sea.
At the present time, we are poised to take advantage of newly developed tools that will enable us to
address the questions of carrying capacity of the Subarctic Pacific. These include measurement
technologies and complex computer models. The vast time-space scope of the environmental
questions requires application of technologies such as remote sensing via aircraft and satellite,
shipboard data acquisition systems such as those employing acoustic sampling of currents and biota,
and moored platforms to collect high resolution time series of biological and physical observations.
Advances in computer technology now permit using large-scale models that assimilate field
observations and integrate biological and physical processes. Even over remote regions like the North
Pacific Ocean, the atmosphere can be monitored and modeled operationally well enough that the
large–scale forcing of the ocean can be specified. For example, The TOGA-TAO array in the South
Pacific will provide excellent coverage of the development of El Niño Southern Oscillation events,
which can be related to processes in the North Pacific. In addition, once underway the ATOC
(Acoustic Thermography of the Ocean Climate) program will provide ocean basin scale information on
temperature variations and the heat budget of the North Pacific Ocean.
A U.S. GLOBEC program in the North Pacific would benefit from parallel development of
complementary research programs of other nations through the PICES–GLOBEC Climate Change and
Carrying Capacity program. International cooperation on a common research program will inevitably
enhance our national research efforts. In the case of coastal programs, Japanese and Russian studies
in the Bering Sea, and Canadian research off British Columbia will augment U.S. investigations of
ecosystem responses to climate variability.
U.S. GLOBEC research programs in the North Pacific would complement proposed research for the
California Current (U.S. GLOBEC 1994). Coordination with the California Current program is
highly desirable because large scale forcing for both regions could be modeled simultaneously.
Linkages to Other Field Programs
The North Pacific is a desirable region for U.S. GLOBEC research efforts partially because of the
potential for coordination with five existing process oriented programs. A short description of each of
these programs follows.
Canadian scientists also have a long history of fisheries oceanographic research. The Canadian La
Perouse program provides a continuous time series of biological and physical oceanographic
conditions off the outer coast of Vancouver Island since 1985.
- Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (FOCI): FOCI focuses research on
biological and physical processes that influence survival of walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma).
FOCI is comprised of scientists at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, the Alaska Fisheries
Science Center, and several other institutions who have been studying both the biotic and abiotic
environment, including processes within larval patches through integrated field, laboratory and
modeling studies. The original focus of FOCI was recruitment to the pollock population spawning in
- Bering Sea FOCI: Bering Sea FOCI, a component of NOAA's Coastal Ocean Program has
been studying production of walleye pollock in the Bering Sea since 1991. The Bering Sea FOCI
program is a six year research program that ends in 1996. The Bering Sea FOCI program has two
main thrusts: investigation of stock structure of pollock in the Bering Sea, and investigation of
recruitment of walleye pollock in the southeast portion of the Bering sea, where significant spawning
- Southeast Bering Sea Carrying Capacity (SEBSCC): SEBSCC is a new regional study
funded through NOAA's Coastal Ocean Program. Southeast Bering Sea Carrying Capacity will focus
resources during each of the next five years to improve our understanding of the Bering Sea
ecosystem. This program begins in 1996 and will continue through 2001.
- Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees (EVOS): The EVOS Trustees support research programs
that will guide the development of an integrated science plan for restoration of species potentially
injured by oil spills in Prince William Sound, Gulf of Alaska. These programs include the Sound
Ecosystem Assessment (SEA) program, and the Apex Predator Ecosystem Experiment (APEX) .
SEA is an interdisciplinary, multi–component program designed to understand factors constraining
pink salmon and herring production in Prince William Sound, Alaska.
- NMFS Ocean Carrying Capacity studies (OCC). The NMFS Auke Bay laboratory initiated
the OCC study on Pacific salmon in the Gulf of Alaska in 1995. The OCC study is focused around
cooperative Canada-U.S. research surveys on the marine life history of Pacific salmonids and will
include studies of: age-at-maturity, modeling and diet studies, and retrospective studies of salmon
growth. These process oriented research programs will provide: a) estimates of many of the critical
biological parameters required to develop a coupled bio-physical model, and b) spatially explicit
physical models for the region.
The FOCI and the Canadian La Perouse Programs are among the most mature fisheries oceanography
programs in the world. Few fisheries oceanography programs have been able to maintain continuous
coordinated research for more than a decade. The findings from these two programs provide many of
the critical parameters for the development of larger scale ecosystem models necessary to study climate
change and carrying capacity of the North Pacific and Bering Sea. For example, the FOCI program
has enumerated abundance trends at various life stages of early development; examined processes
affecting life stages; mapped horizontal, vertical, and temporal distributions; described the oceanic and
atmospheric environment; developed coupled bio–physical models of the Gulf of Alaska, and
developed techniques to examine recruitment– process hypotheses.
The geographic boundary between the coastal regions of the Gulf of Alaska and the open subarctic has
not been defined by the PICES/CCCC/SSC. The following working definition is offered by
Some species, such as salmon, undertake seasonal migrations that cross both the coastal Gulf of
Alaska and the open subarctic. It is recognized that processes in the subarctic gyre would be extended
where necessary to include all areas and species of the North Pacific and marginal seas which currently
are known to, or potentially could, significantly affect the physics, chemistry or biology of the
- The open subarctic region will include Pacific Waters north of the position of the isohaline
of 34.0 psu in the upper mixed layer with the exception of the coastal regions over the continental shelf
and slope (to depths of 1000 m).
- The Bering Sea includes all oceanic waters north of the Aleutian Islands but south of the
- The coastal regions of the Subarctic Pacific will include all waters over the continental shelf
and slope to depths of 1000 m. This coastal region will include areas south of the Aleutian Islands to
the western boundary of U.S. waters at 173°E.