FUTURE: Forecasting and Understanding Trends, Uncertainty and Responses of the North Pacific Ecosystem
FISP Draft following Interim Science Board Meeting held in April 2006
To understand and forecast responses of North Pacific marine ecosystems to climate change and human activities at basin-wide and regional scales, and to broadly communicate this scientific information to governments, resource managers and the general public

FUTURE, a new scientific program of PICES, will build on the success of the Climate Change and Carrying Capacity (CCCC) Program and is motivated by three important societal issues in the North Pacific:

    1. The loss of resilience and productivity of natural environmental capital, such as renewable resources and habitat, and irreparable damage to non-renewable resources.
    2. The loss of socioeconomic opportunities due to natural and anthropogenic change in marine ecosystems, and
    3. Increased uncertainty and risk in decision making faced by managers and policy makers due to climate change and irreversible ecosystem change.

These issues drive the need for improved scientific information to reduce uncertainty, to improve resource management and decision-making, and to better communicate that information to all facets of society. The implementation of FUTURE builds on the enhanced understanding of marine ecosystems gained through programs like CCCC and GLOBEC (Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics), the availability of the next generation of IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climate projections, improved biological, physical, and geochemical time series in the North Pacific, and substantially improved coupled models for synthesizing existing data and testing key hypotheses on the responses of North Pacific ecosystems to climate and human forcing.

FUTURE will move beyond these previous research programs by focusing on understanding the mechanisms underlying ecosystem response, by developing a forecasting capability, and by providing estimates of the uncertainty associated with these forecasts. The challenge is not only to improve our scientific understanding of interactions between the North Pacific Ocean, climate, biological processes and human communities, but also to communicate this information effectively to governments and society at large so they can set ‘wise-use’ policy and management directions in anticipation of the changes we forecast. In short, we need to clarify, anticipate, and communicate the linkages between climate, ecosystems and societies.

Central Scientific Issues

1 Marine ecosystem responses on seasonal, annual and decadal time scales.
2 Climate forcing of physical, biological and biogeochemical processes at scales ranging from the entire North Pacific, to marginal seas and convergence zones, to coastal regions relevant to PICES member countries.
3 Ecological interactions and linkages between coastal and offshore waters, western and eastern Pacific, northern and equatorial Pacific, and marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems.
4 The direct and indirect effects of human activities such as fishing, aquaculture, species invasion, and pollution.
5 The cumulative impacts of multiple ecosystem stresses on biological diversity.
6 Forecasting in a policy environment which communicates the implications and uncertainties to decision-makers and the general public through risk-based ecological assessments.

Communication Issues

1 The communication of PICES science to natural resource managers, groups interested in the outcome of management decisions and the general public.
2 Partnerships with organizations that focus on the social and economic sciences to increase society’s awareness of PICES science activities.
3 Effective communication to differing constituencies in all PICES-member countries.

Range of Key Research Activities
1 Develop integrated models and assessments.
2 Investigate and improve our understanding of mechanisms underlying ecosystem response to change.
3 Develop indicators of ecosystem status and condition to meet conservation and management objectives.
4 Provide advice on the implementation of ocean observing systems.
5 Simulate climate change and human impact scenarios through interaction with key conservation and management bodies in the North Pacific.
6 Develop integration and visualization tools to communicate ecosystem knowledge and complexity.
7 Assess and communicate uncertainty and its implications to managers, communities dependent on the ocean, and the general public.
8 Develop integrated models and scenarios of ecosystem change and data management protocols to support this research.
Key Communication Activities
1 Develop a PICES capability for the communication of complex scientific findings.
2 Build partnerships with organizations already doing outreach successfully.
3 Prepare and distribute press releases, newsletters, public workshops, flyers and videos.

The main challenge we face in developing FUTURE is in setting priorities among the scientific issues, identifying possible key research activities and communicating that science. We must ask ourselves the following types of questions:

1 What are the time and space scales we should focus on in improving understanding of climate and anthropogenic forcing?
2 What will be our primary foci for investigations of ecological interactions and linkages among ecosystems?
3 Should we focus on a subset of human impacts; if yes which ones and why?
4 What type of forecasts can and should we develop?

The answers to these and related questions will provide better clarity to science and resource managers in our member countries of the value of FUTURE as the next integrative science program of PICES. FUTURE will be of high value if it is complementary and synergistic with the science and management needs for understanding, forecasting, and communicating the linkages between climate, ecosystems, and societies.

Draft Agenda: Open Forum on FUTURE Annual Meeting, Yokohama Japan

Overview of FUTURE – Status Report

Discussion to begin to increase the specificity of the key research activities of FUTURE

1 Scientific Understanding – What are the highest priority research activities?
2 Forecasts – What type of forecasts should we develop?
3 Communication – What should be our focus to broaden the communication of PICES science?

Next Steps in developing the FUTURE Science Plan:

1 Establish a writing team to draft a Science Plan.
2 Hold a workshop in April 2007 to refine the draft Science Plan.
3 Review of the revised Science Plan within PICES.
4 Hold a workshop at next Annual Meeting to review and refine Science Plan.
5 Seek outside peer review of the Science Plan.

For more details on FISP Prorgram check FISP theme proposals.