FUTURE Scientific Program: Forecasting and Understanding Trends, Uncertainty and Responses of North Pacific Marine Ecosystems

The FUTURE Science Plan
developed by the Science Plan Writing Team (WT-FISP) under the Study Group on Future Integrative Scientific Program(s) (SG-FISP) was approved in principle at the 2007 PICES Annual Meeting (October 2007, Victoria, Canada) and finalized in February 2008.

The FUTURE Implementation Plan
developed by the Implementation Plan Writing Team (WT-IP) under the Study Group on Future Integrative Scientific Program(s) (SG-FISP) was approved in principle at the 2009 inter-sessional meeting (April 2009, Qingdao, PR China) and finalized in June 2009.

General Information

FUTURE is an integrative Scientific Program undertaken by the member nations and affiliates of PICES to understand how marine ecosystems in the North Pacific respond to climate change and human activities, to forecast ecosystem status based on a contemporary understanding of how nature functions, and to communicate new insights to its members, governments, stakeholders and the public.

FUTURE evolved from research conducted by its predecessor, the PICES/GLOBEC Climate Change and Carrying Capacity (CCCC) Program, which had the goal of increasing understanding of climate influences on marine ecosystems. FUTURE continues a focus on understanding climate impacts on marine systems and places additional emphasis on coastal anthropogenic influences, ecosystem forecasting, and engaging a broad user community with interests in North Pacific ecological and climate information.

The Science Board of PICES provides oversight and direction on the FUTURE program. Because Science Board is composed of the chairs of the Scientific and Technical Committees of PICES, there is integration and communication among the core discipline strengths of PICES. Science Board receives advice from three Advisory Panels of FUTURE, whose chairs are also members of Science Board:
AP-COVE: Climate Ocean Variability and Ecosystems
AP-AICE: Anthropogenic Influences on Coastal Ecosystems
AP-SOFE: Status, Outlooks, Forecasts and Engagement

New Expert Groups (EGs) may be proposed, and if approved by Council, established to work on new tasks that require different expertise or focused effort.

New Working Groups established specifically to address components of FUTURE are:
WG 27, North Pacific Climate Variability and Change
WG 28, Development of Ecosystem Indicators to Characterize Responses to Multiple Stressors
WG 29, Regional Climate Modeling
WG 30, Assessment of Marine Environmental Quality of Radiation around the North Pacific
WG 31, Emerging Topics in Marine Pollution
Working groups have clearly defined terms of reference, and are expected to complete their tasks within three, exceptionally four, years.

FUTURE also led to the creation of two new Sections:
S-CCME, Climate Change Effects on Marine Ecosystems
S-HD, Human Dimensions of Marine Systems
Sections in PICES have a longer duration, often 10 or more years.
These two new sections join two earlier implemented sections:
S-HAB, Ecology of Harmful Algal Blooms in the North Pacific
S-CC, Carbon and Climate
Terms of reference of sections may be revised to tackle emerging issues, as was done in adding Ocean Acidification to the S-CC in 2008 (3 years after the sections formation).

and a Study Group:
SG-SEES, Socio-Ecological-Environmental Systems

FUTURE is one of the highest priority activities of PICES for the next decade.

Research Themes and Implementation Objectives

FUTURE is organized around three research themes that are best characterized as key questions:

  1. What determines an ecosystem’s intrinsic resilience and vulnerability to natural and anthropogenic forcing?
  2. How do ecosystems respond to natural and anthropogenic forcing, and how might they change in the future?
  3. How do human activities affect coastal ecosystems and how are societies affected by changes in these ecosystems?

Each of the key questions has a list of more specific questions that define an approach to address a research theme (see pp. 3-4 in the FUTURE Science Plan ).

The ultimate goal of FUTURE is to understand and communicate the future of North Pacific ecosystems and the potential impacts from human use . Implementation of FUTURE has two objectives (see p. 3 in the FUTURE Implementation Plan ):

  1. To increase understanding of climatic and anthropogenic impacts and consequences on marine ecosystems, with continued leadership at the frontiers of marine science;
  2. To develop activities that include the interpretation, clarity of presentation, peer review, dissemination, and evaluation of ecosystem products (e.g., status reports, outlooks, forecasts) and establish a process for engaging interested institutions and other recipients.

To address the FUTURE goal, there is growing awareness that variability in marine ecosystems is neither simple nor linear either within or across scales, with consequences from ecological disasters to unexpected benefits. Impacts can have a mixture of local, regional, basin and global-scale causes.

Organizational Structure

Scientific Steering Committee:

The PICES Science Board (SB), with the addition of the three FUTURE Advisory Panel Chairmen (AP-AICE, AP-COVE, AP-SOFE), serves as the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) of FUTURE. The Science Board is responsible for initiating FUTURE activities by working through the Scientific and Technical Committees and their expert groups, and evaluating progress toward the FUTURE goal.

Advisory Panels:

Three FUTURE Advisory Panels (AICE-AP, COVE-AP, SOFE-AP) provide continuing direction, leadership, coordination, and synthesis within PICES toward attaining the FUTURE goal. They recommend activities to be undertaken by existing expert groups, recommend new FUTURE products and, in coordination with Scientific and Technical Committees, suggest and help to develop new expert groups.

AP-AICE: FUTURE Advisory Panel on Anthropogenic Influences on Coastal Ecosystems
(Oct. 2009 - Oct. 2014)

AP-COVE: FUTURE Advisory Panel on Climate, Oceanographic Variability and Ecosystems
(Oct. 2009 - Oct. 2014)

AP-SOFE: FUTURE Adisory Panel on Status, Outlooks, Forecasts, and Engagement
(Oct. 2009 - Oct. 2014)

Expert Groups:

The main activities of FUTURE are carried out by the existing expert groups (Sections, Working Groups , Advisory Panels , Study Groups) and new expert groups recommended by the Scientific and Technical Committees and initiated by the Science Board following the Rules of Procedure.


Shortly after the development of the Science Plan and Implementation Plan of FUTURE, it was realized that the numerous and diverse activities of FUTURE would require specialists devoted to specific problems, and likely the creation of new Expert Groups (EGs). The complex and multidisciplinary issues involved in the concepts of resilience, vulnerability, climate and anthropogenic forcing of marine and coastal ecosystems, and the impacts and interactions of ecosystem changes with human populations, required a “ROADMAP” to understand where we are now, where we want to be in the FUTURE, and what are the obstacles and routes to achieve the objectives set forth by the science program. The roadmap emerged initially from discussions held at a FUTURE workshop in Busan, Korea in May 2012. It has been iteratively updated subsequently at ca. six month intervals. Updating is necessary as new EGs are formed to tackle additional tasks within the FUTURE framework, and existing EGs complete their tasks, filling gaps, but also potential revealing new scientific needs. Some tasks proceed on schedule, others fall behind schedule, and for the strength of the program it is important to track progress on all aspects of FUTURE, which is the raison d’être for the FUTURE ROADMAP.

Downlad pdf files (Roadmap 1, Roadmap 2)

Downlad jpeg files (Roadmap 1, Roadmap 2)


FUTURE Workshops' products

2010 inter-sessional FUTURE workshop
August 16–18, 2010, at the Lotte Hotel World, in Seoul, Korea

2011 inter-sessional FUTURE workshop
April 26–28, 2011, at the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.A.

Expert Groups' products

Working Group: WG 27
North Pacific Climate Variability and Change

Working Group: WG 28
Development of Ecosystem Indicators to Characterize Responses to Multiple Stressors

Working Group: WG 29
Regional Climate Modeling

Working Group: WG 30
Assessment of Marine Environmental Quality of Radiation around the North Pacific

Working Group: WG 31 (no products reported yet)
Emerging Topics in Marine Pollution

Study Group: SG-SEES (no products reported yet)
Socio-Ecological-Environmental Systems

Section: S-CCME
Climate Change Effects on Marine Ecosystems