The U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf marine ecosystem has warmed much faster than the global ocean and it is expected that this enhanced warming will continue through this century. Here, we used a high-resolution global climate model and historical observations of species distributions from a trawl survey to examine changes in the future distribution of suitable thermal habitat for various demersal and pelagic species on the Shelf. Along the southern portion of the shelf (Mid-Atlantic Bight and Georges Bank), a projected 4.1C (surface) to 5.0C (bottom) warming of ocean temperature from current conditions results in a northward shift of the thermal habitat for the majority of species. In the north, in the Gulf of Maine, a projected 3.7C (surface) to 3.9C (bottom) warming from current conditions results in substantial reductions in suitable thermal habitat such that species currently inhabiting this region may not remain in these waters under continued warming. Our results provide critical information on the potential for suitable thermal habitat on the U.S. Northeast Shelf for demersal species in the region, and may contribute to the development of ecosystem-based fisheries management strategies in response to climate change.
Marine species distribution shifts on the U.S. Northeast Continental Shelf under continued ocean warming