Sea. Photo: Helle Falborg.

Marine ecological forecasts are a new tool for climate adaptation

Tuesday 03 Sep 19

New book on marine ecological prediction

Download the e-book Seasonal to decadal prediction of marine ecosystems: opportunities, approaches and applications edited by Mark R. Payne, Alistair J. Hobday, Brian R. MacKenzie and Desiree Tommasi.

At Mark Payne presents various marine ecological forecasts and the background technology.

DTU researcher develops short-term forecasts for marine life that can help the fishing industry to adapt to climate change.

Senior Researcher Mark Payne at DTU Aqua is one of a handful of researchers in Europe who are working on forecasts of how marine life is likely to develop in the near future, i.e. within a ten-year period. He predicts that such relatively short-term forecasts will be a valuable tool for politicians, the authorities and the business community when the fishing industry, for example, needs to adapt to climate change.

"There are lots of people making projections far into the future, and the years 2050 and 2100 are frequently mentioned in connection with the climate debate. However, it’s difficult to relate to something that is so far off. For example, I’ll be 124 years old in 2100! On the other hand, forecasts that only stretch ten years ahead will, I think, be something that society finds easier to relate and respond to," says Mark Payne.  

According to Mark Payne, marine ecological forecasts ten years ahead are not a yet a reality, but they are within reach. 

"We have seen success with shorter forecasts, but a few pieces of the puzzle are still missing together with an acceptance in the scientific community that it is actually possible to make forecasts about biological conditions in the sea ten years ahead. However, I’m pretty sure that we in Europe will get there, among other things because the Gulf Stream makes the North Atlantic easier to forecast than, for example, the Pacific," he says.

Editing book about marine ecological forecasts 

Together with research colleagues from Australia, the USA and Denmark, Mark Payne has edited the book Seasonal to decadal prediction of marine ecosystems: opportunities, approaches and applications, which was published in July 2019 by Frontiers. The book brings together the experiences so far with marine ecological predictions, and is helping to make other researchers aware of this new scientific area. 

"In recent years, the world has gained access to much better data on the physical conditions and changes in the sea. This is enabling us to build models that can translate data on the physical environment into biological outcomes. Researchers have been working on this in Australia and the USA for about 10 years, but very few people are thinking like this in Europe,” says Mark Payne. 

Mark Payne is working with, among other things, marine biological forecasts in the EU Horizon 2020 project ‘Blue-Action’. Here, he is leading the work package which deals with fisheries. One of the results of the work is forecasts that can be used to monitor stocks of the commercially important blue whiting in the North Atlantic. The size of the blue whiting’s spawning area varies from year to year in step with, among other things, the salinity of the water, but research vessels taking random samples for stock assessment each year examine the entire potential spawning grounds. By predicting where the blue whiting can be expected to be found in the coming spawning season, it will be possible to monitor the fish stock far more effectively (see more in the video at the bottom of the page). 

Helping the fishing industry with planning

Mark Payne is also collaborating with the Danish fishing industry on developing a prognosis for the coming sandeel season. The sandeel is a very important fish economically for the fishing industry in Denmark, but large fluctuations occur in population size from one year to the next, which makes it difficult for fish factories to plan their activities.   

"We’ve developed a model based on the water temperature and the size of last year’s sandeel population. This has proven to be extremely good at predicting six months hence about whether the new generation of sandeel will be small, medium or large. We have worked with the fishing industry on this for one season, and will be making a new prediction this autumn,” says Mark Payne.  

In future, anglers could also benefit from Mark Payne’s work. He is in the process of developing a garfish barometer, which is based on information about sea temperatures and previous years’ catch data from anglers. The barometer will predict when the garfish can be expected to reach the Danish waters in the spring, and thus where and when anglers are most likely to be able to fish successfully for garfish.

Watch the Blue Whiting Spawning Habitat Forecast 2019

In the video Blue Whiting Spawning Habitat Forecast 2019, Mark Payne gives predictions on where the blue whiting will spawn in 2019.
22 MARCH 2023