Climate change and new potential spawning sites for Northeast Arctic cod
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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In this study we investigate both historical and potential future changes in the spatial distribution of spawning habitats for Northeast Arctic cod (NEA cod) based on a literature study on spawning habitats and different physical factors from a downscaled climate model. The approach to use a high resolution regional ocean model to analyze spawning sites is new and provides more details about crucial physical factors than a global low resolution model can. The model is evaluated with respect to temperature and salinity along the Norwegian coast during the last decades and shows acceptable agreement with observations. However, the model does not take into consideration biological or evolutionary factors which also have impact on choice of spawning sites. Our results from the downscaled RCP4.5 scenario suggest that the spawning sites will be shifted further northeastwards, with new locations at the Russian coast close to Murmansk over the next 50 years, where low temperatures for many decades in the last century were a limiting factor on spawning during spring. The regional model gives future temperatures above the chosen lower critical minimum value in larger areas than today and indicates that spawning will be more extensive there. Dependent on the chosen upper temperature boundary, future temperatures may become a limiting factor for spawning habitats at traditional spawning sites south of Lofoten. Finally, the observed long-term latitudinal shifts in spawning habitats along the Norwegian coast the recent decades may be indirectly linked to temperature through the latitudinal shift of the sea ice edge and the corresponding shift in available ice-free predation habitats, which control the average migration distance to the spawning sites. We therefore acknowledge that physical limitations for defining the spawning sites might be proxies for other biophysically related factors.