Marine Life Moving Poleward Faster Than Terrestrial Counterparts Due to Climate Change

Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth's surface, yet our knowledge of the impact of climate change on marine habitats is a mere drop in the proverbial ocean compared to terrestrial systems. The journal Nature Climate Change published the new findings of a three-year study conducted by a NCEAS working group which shows that warming oceans are causing marine species to change breeding, feeding, and migration timing as well as shift where they live. Widespread systemic shifts in measures such as distribution of species and phenology — the timing of nature’s calendar — are on a scale comparable to or greater than those observed on land.

The report, which involved scientists from 17 institutions, including NCEAS associates Carrie Kappel and Ben Halpern and former NCEAS postdoctoral associates Mary O'Connor, Lauren Buckley, and Camille Parmesan, forms part of the Fifth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). The Geneva-based IPCC assesses scientific, technical, and socioeconomic information concerning climate change, its potential effects, and options for adaptation and mitigation.

“The leading edge or front-line of marine species distributions is moving toward the poles at an average of 72 kilometers (about 45 miles) per decade — considerably faster than terrestrial species, which are moving poleward at an average of 6 kilometers (about 4 miles) per decade,” said lead author Elvira Poloczanska, a research scientist with Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Marine and Atmospheric Research in Brisbane. “And this is occurring even though sea surface temperatures are warming three times slower than land temperatures.”


Global imprint of climate change on marine life
Elvira S. Poloczanska, Christopher J. Brown, William J. Sydeman, Wolfgang Kiessling, David S. Schoeman, Pippa J. Moore, Keith Brander, John F. Bruno, Lauren B. Buckley, Michael T. Burrows, Carlos M. Duarte, Benjamin S. Halpern, Johnna Holding, Carrie V. Kappel, Mary I. O’Connor, John M. Pandolfi, Camille Parmesan, Franklin Schwing, Sarah Ann Thompson, and Anthony J. Richardson
Nature Climate Change, August 2013

 

UCSB News Release


Following is a sample of the media coverage of this study:

Working Group:
Towards Understanding Marine Biological Impacts of Climate Change

Principle Investigators: Elvira S. Poloczanska and Anthony J. Richardson
 

This project was supported by NCEAS and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF Grant #EF-0553768)

 

 

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Posted on August 1, 2013