Pelagic Ecology and Pacific Climate

  1. David H. Peterson
  1. John A. Mcgowan

Published Online: 23 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1029/GM055p0141

Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas

Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas

How to Cite

Mcgowan, J. A. (1989) Pelagic Ecology and Pacific Climate, in Aspects of Climate Variability in the Pacific and the Western Americas (ed D. H. Peterson), American Geophysical Union, Washington, D. C.. doi: 10.1029/GM055p0141

Author Information

  1. Marine Life Research Group, Scripps Institution of Oceanographya-028, University Of California-San Diego, La Jolla, Ca 92093

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 23 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 1989

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780875900728

Online ISBN: 9781118664285



  • Climatic changes—Pacific Area.;
  • Paleoclimatology—Pacific Area.;
  • Climatic changes—West (U.S.);
  • Paleoclimatology—West (U.S.);
  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide.


Productivity and biomass of pelagic organisms vary greatly in space and time. Although we know this to be true we have no well developed, generally accepted body of theory as to causes. This is due in large part to our lack of adequate descriptions of the frequency spectra of changes in biological, physical and chemical properties of ecosystems. There is evidence that populations of co-occurring species may oscillate in size due to intrinsic forces alone, such as competition and predator-prey interaction. There is also strong evidence that extrinsic forces such as climatic variations are important. Further man's activities such as harvesting has clearly affected the time rates of change of entire populations of fish. Sorting out cause and effect in such complex situations has not been easy but there is now some evidence from long time series of unharvested populations that large, low frequency variations in productivity and biomass are very closely associated with climatic variations. If we are to understand the consequences of large scale climate change we must obtain a clearer picture of the relationship between climatic variations and the responses of complicated multispecies systems. We need to know which atmosphere-ocean changes lead to which frequencies, amplitudes, and directions of change in pelagic ecosystem production, structure, and function.