Designing a CHANS decision-support tool for harvest management of Great Lakes lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) in a changing climate
Lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) is a culturally and economically important species to the Great Lakes and an ecological indicator of ecosystem health. Since 1980, lake whitefish have supported the most economically valuable and productive commercial fishery in the upper Laurentian Great Lakes (Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior; annual catch value = US$16.6 million). The telecopuling effects of climate change are expected to impact the ecology, production dynamics, and value of this fishery, because the success of recruitment to the fishery has been linked with climatic influences, including water temperature, wind, and ice cover. Using a Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS) approach, we developed a projection model for recruitment of lake whitefish in a changing climate based on correlations between these climate variables and lake whitefish recruitment to the fishery.
Our model suggests that the distribution and abundance of lake whitefish will change in the Great Lakes with warmer water temperatures, less ice cover, and fewer storm events. We collaborated with tribal managers, state managers, and commercial fishers to use this model as the foundation for a decision-support tool to optimize harvest management of lake whitefish in a changing climate. Specifically, this tool integrates the impact of changes in climate on the ecology and population dynamics of this species in order to facilitate the management of this fishery resource at a landscape-scale and assist in coordination of harvest strategies for this species in the face of changing global and regional climatic conditions. The implications for this tool telecouple beyond the Great Lakes basin. It is an information tool for the impacts of global climate change on coldwater fisheries and serve as a template for developing similar adaptive management strategies for other cold water species.