• Impacts of climate change on juvenile broad whitefish Coregonus nasus in Arctic Alaska: bioenergetics model development and application

      Green, Duncan G.; Sutton, Trent M.; Norcross, Brenda L.; Cunningham, Curry J. (2020-08)
      Anthropogenic climate change is contributing to rising temperatures worldwide, yet the increase is particularly rapid in the Arctic. Despite their position on the front of global temperature warming, the responses of Arctic ecosystems and the individual species within them are poorly understood. Broad whitefish Coregonus nasus in the Alaska nearshore Beaufort Sea not only inhabit a rapidly changing ecosystem, but are also a key component of subsistence harvest in the region and a relatively understudied fish. I parameterized and corroborated a bioenergetics model through species-specific physiological investigation and laboratory rearing trials, and used the resulting model to simulate potential responses in growth and consumption under climate change scenarios projected with global climate models. Simulations at current estimated prey energy densities projected increases in future consumption rates of up to 4% required to maintain historically observed summer growth, while simulations in which prey energy density was reduced by 50% resulted in projected consumption increases of up to 107% necessary to maintain historic growth. Simulations in which prey energy density was increased by 50% indicated the ability for juvenile broad whitefish to reduce consumption rates by up to 32% and maintain current growth rates. These results suggest that, although the physiological effects of rising water temperatures have the potential to increase growth rates of juvenile broad whitefish, climate-induced shifts in prey availability or prey quality are likely to be regulating factors that determine the magnitude and direction of changes in growth rates.