Science Advisory Report 2021/003
Biophysical and Ecological Overview of a Study Area within the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area Zone
- The study area is dynamic, with biophysical conditions and species assemblages changing seasonally and interannually:
- Local knowledge (LK) and scientific studies have noted multi-year changes in biophysical conditions (e.g. sea ice) and species assemblages.
- The strong biophysical seasonality of the study area also affects species assemblages.
- Sea ice is an important ecological, ephemeral feature of the study area. Since many species are associated with specific elements of sea ice, their distribution and abundance are also dynamic.
- Through nutrient and contaminant transport, ocean currents, and migration of species, the study area is connected to adjacent marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Similarly, the ecosystem is inseparable from the Labrador Inuit, their way of life, and their future.
- Diverse marine and coastal habitats occur within the study area:
- Habitat gradients are most pronounced along the lateral axis of the study area (inshore to offshore). This gradient spans habitat zones that include the intertidal, nearshore, continental shelf and continental slope.
- The latitudinal gradient is large enough that there are important differences in biophysical conditions and species assemblages from the south to north edges of the study area.
- The study area supports a largely intact assemblage of biota, including large marine mammals, apex predators, species of conservation concern, and many species that have sustained Labrador Inuit for generations and/or have been targeted by commercial fisheries.
- Industrial activity (shipping, oil and gas, and commercial fishing) is not as prevalent in the study area region as in other coastal parts of the North Atlantic. However, these activities are more pronounced in areas adjacent to the study area.
- The study area is a challenging area in which to conduct science and therefore there are few scientific studies – particularly in winter and spring when sea ice is present. While the study area does benefit from rich LK of culturally important species in many parts of the coast, there remains significant gaps in the understanding of species distributions and ecology. Some parts of the study area (e.g. shelf areas inside the limits of the DFO Research Vessel [RV] multispecies survey and some parts of the coast less frequently used by Labrador Inuit) are particularly under-represented.
- Some species assemblages are poorly represented in available studies, including coastal fish, invertebrates, and plankton communities. Furthermore, the understanding of the oceanography of the coastal zone remains poorly understood.
This Science Advisory Report is from the November 29-30, 2018 Regional Peer Review on the Biophysical and Ecological Overview of a Study Area within the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area Marine Zone. Additional publications from this meeting will be posted on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Science Advisory Schedule as they become available.
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