Pelagic Habitat Characterization in the North Pacific

The focus of ERD’s Pelagic Habitat Characterization program is to provide the oceanographic context for interpreting the complex movements and diving behaviors exhibited by marine predators as they range throughout the North Pacific.  This is a truly multidisciplinary activity integrating data from different sources, and involves scientists from several of ERD's programs (e.g., Satellite Applications for LMRs, Regional Oceanography of the NEP, Data Product R&D, West Coast Regional CoastWatch Node) as well as from the academic sector (e.g., Stanford University, University of California Santa Cruz).

California Current System 

The dominant spatial and temporal scales of phytoplanktonic chlorophyll-a variability in the central California Current System from an empirical orthogonal function (EOF) decomposition of 7.4 years of SeaWiFs data (1997‹2005).  Panels in top row (A‹C) are the first three spatial modes and panels in bottom row (D‹F) are the corresponding amplitude time series (red series in the last two panels are the 5-point running averages).  Black lines in panel A are the boundaries of the NOAA-designated Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay National Marine sanctuaries (from north to south).  Black contour in panel B is the 200-m isobath.  From Palacios et al. (2006), Deep-Sea Research II, 53, 250-269.

One of the major drivers of this program is the Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) project, whose goal is the large-scale deployment of electronic tags for tracking a variety of species, including squid, tuna, sharks, sea turtles, seabirds, pinnipeds, and cetaceans. This research will lead to an improved understanding of habitat use by top predators and their role in the pelagic ecosystem, and will fulfill a critical need for information to better manage these species, some of which are commercially fished and some of which are protected resources.  The instrumented animals collect large amounts of data at high sampling resolutions, and these data are being incorporated into national and global hydrographic data archives like NOAA’s World Ocean Database.

Pelagic Predators Track 

Tracks from 12 species of pelagic predators illustrating their ranging habitats in the North Pacific from TOPP tag data.


Relevance to NOAA’s Strategic Mission for Fiscal Years 2008-2012:

  • Protect, restore, and manage the use of coastal and ocean resources through an ecosystem approach to management

    • Ocean and coastal ecosystem management

    • Collaborative, science-based approaches to ecosystem management
      • Region-specific collaborative approaches to ecosystem-based management—including cooperative science programs with industry, academia, and others—that are generating specific, measurable improvements in ecosystem health and productivity and sustainability of resources
    • Climate variability and ecosystem predictions
      • Improved monitoring and forecasting of ecosystem conditions based on climate observations and models
Last modified: 12/24/2014