April 1, 2006 to December 31, 2015
Project Description: 

The Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP) offers a system of vertically integrated hypotheses and the means to test them. The hypotheses explain how climate controls the time and place of production of upper trophic level species. Specific testable hypotheses are addressed through retrospective analyses, three years of new observations, full use of existing observations and modeling of climate and ecosystems. Models predict the likelihoods of population levels, trends and other attributes under several climate scenarios. Under warming or cooling, bottom-up control processes (water temperatures, sea ice extent and duration, strength and location of ocean currents and nutrient fluxes) determine the time and place of food production. Under warming, changes in time and place of food production lead to dominance of top-down control processes in the pelagic marine environment and the decline of benthic production, whereas cooling relaxes top-down control in the pelagic zone and increases benthic production.

The BSIERP project focuses on understanding trophic interactions among:

  1. colony-based foragers,
  2. hot spot foragers,
  3. pelagic forage species,
  4. pelagic predators and
  5. benthic predators.

Hypotheses are tested in a linked set of spatially explicit, competing models that connect climate scenarios, physical and biological oceanographic models, a lower and upper trophic level ecosystem model and economic and management models. Models forecast changes in abundance of pelagic piscivores in response to changes in predators and prey and attendant economic and management consequences. Two-way connections between the program and communities, stakeholders and the region's body of local and traditional knowledge are enabled by outreach, education and community involvement projects. Products of the project enable testing and improved understanding of effects of climate change and management actions on the Bering Sea ecosystem.

BSIERP is administered by the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), Anchorage, Alaska.