Characterizing uncertainty in climate impact projections: A case study with seven marine species on the North American continental shelf

James W. Morley, Thomas L. Frölicher, Malin L. Pinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Projections of climate change impacts on living resources are being conducted frequently, and the goal is often to inform policy. Species projections will be more useful if uncertainty is effectively quantified. However, few studies have comprehensively characterized the projection uncertainty arising from greenhouse gas scenarios, Earth system models (ESMs), and both structural and parameter uncertainty in species distribution modelling. Here, we conducted 8964 unique 21st century projections for shifts in suitable habitat for seven economically important marine species including American lobster, Pacific halibut, Pacific ocean perch, and summer flounder. For all species, both the ESM used to simulate future temperatures and the niche modelling approach used to represent species distributions were important sources of uncertainty, while variation associated with parameter values in niche models was minor. Greenhouse gas emissions scenario contributed to uncertainty for projections at the century scale. The characteristics of projection uncertainty differed among species and also varied spatially, which underscores the need for improved multi-model approaches with a suite of ESMs and niche models forming the basis for uncertainty around projected impacts. Ensemble projections show the potential for major shifts in future distributions. Therefore, rigorous future projections are important for informing climate adaptation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2118-2133
Number of pages16
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


  • Black sea bass
  • Climate change
  • Market squid
  • Sablefish
  • Species distribution modelling


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