Stressor-Response Modeling of the Interactive Effects of Climate Change and Land Use Patterns on the Alteration of Coastal Marine Systems by Invasive Species

EPA Grant Number: R830877
Title: Stressor-Response Modeling of the Interactive Effects of Climate Change and Land Use Patterns on the Alteration of Coastal Marine Systems by Invasive Species
Investigators: Whitlatch, Robert B. , Osman, Richard W.
Institution: University of Connecticut
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: June 1, 2003 through May 31, 2007
Project Amount: $564,430
RFA: Developing Regional-Scale Stressor-Response Models for Use in Environmental Decision-making (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Ecosystems , Global Climate Change


We will use southern New England coastal habitats as model systems to address the interaction of climate change and anthropogenic stresses resulting from variability in land use patterns in the response of recently introduced marine invasive species and how these species act to alter coastal ecosystems. We will develop a stressor-response model of these interactions for ecosystem managers to assess regional coastal environmental problems, as well as use invasive species as “sentinels” of the interaction of climate change and environmental degradation. Our previous work indicates (a) warming of coastal waters is correlated with an increasing abundance of invasive marine species, and (b) lower biodiversity characteristic of more stressed habitats make these areas more susceptible to invasion. Using this information, we will experimentally test these interactions over a range of coastal habitats to address such issues as what are the significance interactions among the multiple stressors (land use and climate change), and are the effects additive or non-additive. We will develop a stressor-response model which simulates these interactions and that can be used by managers to discern which habitats are most vulnerable to the multiple stressors. We will examine the uncertainties of the model predictions, how can the model results be extrapolated both spatially and temporally, and how can the model be tested and validated.


We will couple a field and modeling component that delineates the impacts on shallow water habitats resulting from changing land-use with an experimental field component that examines directly the interacting effects of increasing water temperatures and anthropogenic stresses on the rates of species introductions and the impacts of these on native communities. Field experiments will use the effluent of a power plant to simulate predicted temperature changes and the population and community responses of native and recently introduced species will be compared. Transplant experiments will also be done to determine the interactive effects of warming water and existing stresses on the degree to which native communities may be altered by the increased success of newly introduced species. The measurement and modeling of nutrient inputs as a function of land use and resultant changes in benthic communities, including the degree to which species introductions change the dynamics, will enable us to examine likely community and ecosystem changes in these coastal habitats as a function of climate change. The model will be designed to present easily-understood scenarios to managers and planners.

Expected Results:

This study will directly examine global climate change on shallow-water marine communities that are most likely to suffer from the poleward spread of species as coastal waters warm. The adaptation of an existing model will couple climate and land-use changes to assess their combined effects on the susceptibility of habitats to species invasion and subsequent ecosystem changes in a manner that can be used by managers and planners. Because the invaders are easily recognized by the general public and their damage to native communities can be readily quantified by ecologists, they can be used by managers as highly visible indicators of stress, as well as assessing the success of various types of implemented management plans.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 38 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 9 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

marine, estuary, global climate, integrated assessment, ecosystem, ecology, modeling, analytical surveys, Northeast., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Air, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Regional/Scaling, Environmental Monitoring, Habitat, Ecological Risk Assessment, anthropogenic stress, coastal ecosystem, aquatic species vulnerability, biodiversity, environmental measurement, ecosystem assessment, meteorology, climatic influence, global change, New England, climate, habitat loss, anthropogenic, climate models, environmental stress, invasive species, ecological models, climate model, Global Climate Change, land use, regional anthropogenic stresses, atmospheric chemistry, stressor response model, ambient air pollution, climate variability

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • Final Report