PICES LogoThe Climate Change and Carrying Capacity (CCCC) programme was established in 1993 to promote, coordinate, integrate and synthesise interdisciplinary studies linking climate change and variability to physical conditions and ecosystem structure and function in the North Pacific and its adjacent marginal seas. An ultimate goal of the CCCC programme is "to forecast the consequences of climate variability on the ecosystems of the subarctic Pacific". The program has focused on four central scientific issues: physical forcing, lower trophic level responses, higher trophic level responses and ecosystem interactions.

Remarkable changes have been observed in the North Pacific and adjacent seas in recent decades. Concurrent changes in atmospheric pressure and ocean temperatures indicate that in 1976 and 1977 the North Pacific shifted from one climate state, or regime, to another that persisted through the 1980s. Analysis of records of North Pacific sea surface temperature and atmospheric conditions show a pattern of regime shifts lasting several years to decades. Although the important linkages are poorly understood, there is growing evidence that biological productivity in the North Pacific responds to these decadal-scale shifts in atmospheric and oceanic conditions, by alternating between periods of high and low productivity. Salmon survival in the Eastern North Pacific was clearly impacted by the 1976-77 change in ocean conditions. The CCCC Program addresses how climate change affects ecosystem structure and the productivity of key biological species at all trophic levels in the open ocean and coastal North Pacific ecosystems. There is a strong emphasis on the coupling between atmospheric and oceanic processes, their impacts on the production of major living marine resources, and how they respond to climate change on time scales of seasons to centuries.

Activities in the CCCC Program focus on two spatial scales:

  1. Basin-scale studies to determine how plankton productivity and the carrying capacity for high trophic level, pelagic carnivores in the North Pacific change in response to climate variations.
  2. Regional-scale, ecosystem studies comparing how variations in ocean climate affect species dominance and fish populations in the coastal margins of the Pacific Rim, from China to California.

In distinguishing between regional and basin scales, the former is understood to mean studies in coastal waters, generally conducted by scientists of a single country; some of these are identified as national GLOBEC programs. Basin scale refers to studies in the open ocean, generally requiring international co-operation for their conduct. The term subarctic Pacific includes the adjacent seas of the region, in accordance with terms of the PICES Convention.

The programme has consisted of three phases:

  • Phase 1. Planning and Retrospective Data Analysis (1995-1996)
  • Phase 2. Observing, Process Studies, and Modeling (Started 1997)
  • Phase 3. Model Integration and Testing (Started 2000)

The ultimate goal of the CCCC Program is to forecast the consequences of climate variability on the ecosystems of the subarctic Pacific. To achieve this goal, CCCC must, first, document North Pacific climate variability and its impacts on marine ecosystems, and second, develop a mechanistic understanding of how the observed climate variability promulgates to all levels of the ecosystem, and whether it occurs through bottom-up, top-down or a balance of processes.

PICES CCCC meets its objectives through task teams, at present there are two active task teams, MODEL and CFAME, which aim to acheive the following goals:

  • Understand the physical, chemical, and biological functioning of marine ecosystems
  • Understand and quantify the impacts of human activities and climate on marine ecosystems
  • Provide advice on methods and tools to guide scientific activities
  • Provide scientific advice towards wise use of the North Pacific Ocean
  • Promote collaboration with organisations, scientific programmes, and stakeholders that are relevant to the PICES goals
  • Provide collaboration among scientists within PICES
  • Maintain an active infrastructure for CCCC
  • Make the scientific products of PICES accessible

For more information please see the PICES CCCC home page.