Ecosystem Research Initiative for the Gulf Of Maine Area

There is a long history of research of ecosystem processes in the Gulf of Maine Area (GoMA). The area, like other ecosystems in the NW Atlantic, has experienced changes in species and community composition, substantial declines in some commercial species, and threats due to invasive species. In parts of the GoMA, total fish biomass has remained relatively constant since the late 1960s; groundfish biomass has declined while pelagic biomass and particularly that of elasmobranches has increased. Managers are asking to what extent these changes are due to exploitation or due to environment. They and stakeholder communities around the GoMA are also concerned for the overall cumulative impact of all human activities on the ecosystem and its ecological services. There is the added concern for the implications of climate change. The project augments Regional programs that provide the scientific basis for achievement of biodiversity, productivity and habitat-related objectives for an ecosystem approach to management in the GoMA through pursuit of three research themes:

Figure 1

Theme I - Influence of climate change on the oceanography and ecosystems of the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank region


Climate change has been characterized as one of the most pressing environmental issues humankind will face in the 21st century. The Canadian government has recognized this and understanding the science of, impacts and adaptation to climate change has been identified as a national priority for federal science departments. DFO Science has, in turn, included climate change science and impacts as an important element of its 5-year Research Agenda to address issues from the department’s climate change risk assessment initiated to evaluate impacts and vulnerabilities as they relate to SFA, HaPAE, SAW outcomes.

Project Elements

This project will address a number of the high risk ecosystem elements from that assessment. Relevant also to this project are the following observations:

This project will:

The ultimate goal of this project will be to understand better how climate change will affect the GoMA and provide the basis for better predictions (scenarios) of climate change and impacts on the region’s oceanography and ecosystems.


Frank, KT, RI Perry, KF Drinkwater and WH Lear. 1988. Changes in the fisheries of Atlantic Canada associated with global increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide: as preliminary report. Can. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 1652.

Wright, DG, RM Hendry, JW Loder and FW Dawson. 1986. Oceanic changes associated with global increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide: a preliminary report for the Atlantic coast of Canada. Ca. Tech. Rep. Fish. Aquat. Sci. No. 1426: