Qualitative assessment of climate-driven ecological shifts in the Caspian Sea
The worldwide occurrence of complex climate-induced ecological shifts in marine systems is one of the major challenges in sustainable bio-resources management. The occurrence of ecological environment-driven shifts was studied in the Southern Caspian Sea using the “shiftogram" method on available fisheries-related (i.e. commercially important benthopelagic fish stocks) ecological and climatic variables. As indicators of potential environmentally driven shift patterns we used indices for the North Atlantic Oscillation, the Southern Oscillation, the Siberian High, the East Atlantic-West Russia pattern, as well as Sea Surface Temperature and surface chlorophyll-a concentration Given the explorative findings from the serial shift analyses, the cascading and serial order of multiple shift events in climatic-ecologic conditions of the southern Caspian Sea suggested a linkage between external forces and dynamics of ecosystem components and structures in the following order: global-scale climate forces lead to local environmental processes, which in turn lead to biological components dynamics. For the first time, this study indicates that ecological shifts are an integral component of bentho-pelagic subsystem regulatory processes and dynamics. Qualitative correspondence of biological responses of bentho-pelagic stocks to climatic events is one of the supporting evidences that overall Caspian ecosystem structures and functioning might have—at least partially-been impacted by global-scale climatic or local environmental shifts. These findings may help to foster a regional Ecosystem-based Approach to Management (EAM) as an integral part of bentho-pelagic fisheries management plans.