Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8356
Title: Extending semi-quantitative ecological risk assessment to include life stage considerations
Author: Emma Hodgson, T. E. Essington, I. C. Kaplan
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: PLoS ONE
Volume: 11
Issue: 7
DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0158917
Keywords: Ocean acidification,risk assessment,matrix model,euphausiids,environmental stressors,life history modeling

Species are experiencing a suite of novel stressors from anthropogenic activities that have impacts at multiple scales. Vulnerability assessment is one tool to evaluate the likely impacts that these stressors pose to species so that high-vulnerability cases can be identified and prioritized for monitoring, protection, or mitigation. Commonly used semi-quantitative methods lack a framework to explicitly account for differences in exposure to stressors and organism responses across life stages. Here we propose a modification to commonly used spatial vulnerability assessment methods that includes such an approach, using ocean acidification in the California Current as an illustrative case study. Life stage considerations were included by assessing vulnerability of each life stage to ocean acidification and were used to estimate population vulnerability in two ways. We set population vulnerability equal to: (1) the maximum stage vulnerability and (2) a weighted mean across all stages, with weights calculated using Lefkovitch matrix models. Vulnerability was found to vary across life stages for the six species explored in this case study: two krill–Euphausia pacifica and Thysanoessa spinifera, pteropod–Limacina helicina, pink shrimp–Pandalus jordani, Dungeness crab–Metacarcinus magister and Pacific hake–Merluccius productus. The maximum vulnerability estimates ranged from larval to subadult and adult stages with no consistent stage having maximum vulnerability across species. Similarly, integrated vulnerability metrics varied greatly across species. A comparison showed that some species had vulnerabilities that were similar between the two metrics, while other species’ vulnerabilities varied substantially between the two metrics. These differences primarily resulted from cases where the most vulnerable stage had a low relative weight. We compare these methods and explore circumstances where each method may be appropriate.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Provide scientific support for the implementation of ecosystem-based management
Understand how climate influences ecosystem variability.