Rising synchrony controls western North American ecosystems

Bryan A. Black, Peter van der Sleen, Emanuele Di Lorenzo, Daniel Griffin, William J. Sydeman, Jason B. Dunham, Ryan R. Rykaczewski, Marisol García-Reyes, Mohammad Safeeq, Ivan Arismendi, Steven J. Bograd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Along the western margin of North America, the winter expression of the North Pacific High (NPH) strongly influences interannual variability in coastal upwelling, storm track position, precipitation, and river discharge. Coherence among these factors induces covariance among physical and biological processes across adjacent marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we show that over the past century the degree and spatial extent of this covariance (synchrony) has substantially increased, and is coincident with rising variance in the winter NPH. Furthermore, centuries-long blue oak (Quercus douglasii) growth chronologies sensitive to the winter NPH provide robust evidence that modern levels of synchrony are among the highest observed in the context of the last 250 years. These trends may ultimately be linked to changing impacts of the El Niño Southern Oscillation on midlatitude ecosystems of North America. Such a rise in synchrony may destabilize ecosystems, expose populations to higher risks of extinction, and is thus a concern given the broad biological relevance of winter climate to biological systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2305-2314
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal change biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • El Niño Southern Oscillation
  • Moran effect
  • North Pacific High
  • synchrony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • General Environmental Science


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