Ecological forecasting under climate change: the case of Baltic cod

Good decision making for fisheries and marine ecosystems requires a capacity to anticipate the consequences of management under different scenarios of climate change. The necessary ecological forecasting calls for ecosystem-based models capable of integrating multiple drivers across trophic levels and properly including uncertainty. The methodology presented here assesses the combined impacts of climate and fishing on marine food-web dynamics and provides estimates of the confidence envelope of the forecasts. It is applied to cod (Gadus morhua) in the Baltic Sea, which is vulnerable to climate-related decline in salinity owing to both direct and indirect effects (i.e. through species interactions) on early-life survival. A stochastic food web-model driven by regional climate scenarios is used to produce quantitative forecasts of cod dynamics in the twenty-first century. The forecasts show how exploitation would have to be adjusted in order to achieve sustainable management under different climate scenarios.