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Ecosystems Dynamics & Assessment

Current Conditions of the Northeast Shelf Ecosystem -- Spring 2016 Update


  • Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Northeast Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem during 2015 continue to be above average; in some season/area time series, 2015 was the second warmest year on record.
  • The fall bloom on the Northeast Shelf was well developed, covering a large area including Georges Bank and much of the Gulf of Maine. There was also a large fall bloom in the Middle Atlantic Bight, which had the earliest start date of the time series.
  • Cool water habitats (5-15°C), which form the core thermal habitats of the Northeast Shelf, were reduced in area to their lowest level in the time series during 2015.
  • The arrival of the fall thermal transition has gotten progressively later over the past two decades; the 2015 transition in the Middle Atlantic Bight was the latest in the time series.
  • The fall distribution of fish and invertebrate species sampled by the NEFSC is portrayed by kernel density plots and the assessments of species distributions using both along-shelf distance and depth. The dominant movement of species has been to the Northeast and into deeper water.
  • Summer and winter wind speeds have changed over time, thus impacting the movement of water masses and organisms in the ecosystem.
  • The strength of temperature fronts has increased over much of the Northeast Shelf; the 2015 frontal magnitudes for Northeast Shelf ecoregions were the highest in the time series.
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