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MEPS prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13977

Greater exposure of nearshore habitats in the Bering Sea makes fish early life stages vulnerable to climate change

Lorenzo Ciannelli*, Ericka Smith, Kelly Kearney, Mary Hunsicker, Carey McGilliard

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine fish species with complex life cycles undergo ontogenetic changes in their physiological and habitat requirements. Therefore, predicting how warming ocean conditions are likely to impact fish populations requires size-(age-) and habitat-specific analyses. We determined the habitat exposure and the scope of adaptability of four shelf-oriented flatfish species in the Bering Sea to projected climate-driven warming. We quantified present day and end-of-century habitat exposure based on hindcasts and forecasts of regional ocean circulation models and quantified fish adaptability based on changes in depth distribution and from published thermal tolerances of northern rock sole Lepidopsetta polyxystra, yellowfin sole Limanda aspera, Alaska plaice Pleuronectes quadrituberculatus, and flathead sole Hippoglossoides elassodon. These four species complete their life cycle within the Bering Sea shelf but have different depth preferences and thermal tolerances through ontogeny. We found that species or size-ranges that occupy the inner shelf, such as northern rock sole, yellowfin sole and Alaska plaice, are exposed to higher seasonal variability compared to outer shelf species. While these inner shelf species are likely adapted to large seasonal changes in temperature, the future range of seasonal variability was projected to exceed their thermal tolerances. Therefore, we expect species that reside inshore during part of their life cycle and have high temperature sensitivity and limited mobility to be particularly vulnerable to climate change.