Communication

Marine species moving toward the poles at a rate of 72 miles per decade

  • A team involving the CSIC has collected more than 1,700 comments on the impact of climate change on the oceans

  • The 83% of the measurements of long-term changes in marine ecosystems is consistent with predictions


Madrid, 5th August 2013. An international team involving the National Research Council (CSIC) has compiled the available studies on the effects of climate change on the global ocean. The results, which represent 1,735 observations reveal that marine organisms moving poleward at a rate of 72 kilometers per decade, in response to ocean warming. The study has been published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Change.

Greenhouse gase heat
terrestrial ecosystems three times faster than in the ocean. However, marine plants and animals need to move faster to adapt to this situation and find the thermal conditions favor them most. In fact, marine species distribution have changed over the past 50 years at a higher rate than land, aided in some cases by the production and seed dispersal by ocean currents.

"Our results fill a gap in the evaluation of the impact of climate change of the last report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which analyzed about 80 comments on impacts in the ocean, compared to 1,735 now we studied," says CSIC researcher Carlos Duarte.

Agencies with the fastest average on the move are those who live in the pelagic zone: phytoplankton, which moves at about 470 kilometers per decade, fish, at a rate of about 280 kilometers per decade, plankton and invertebrates that moving at about 143 kilometers per decade.

According to the study, between 81% and 83% of the analyzed observations are consistent with the response to climate change predicted by the models and confirm that ocean warming is the dominant force of the changes observed in the ocean.

The research concludes that the emission of greenhouse gases significantly warmed ocean surface and global response of marine organisms shows "a strong footprint" of the impact of anthropogenic phenomenon. The differences in the changes observed between species and populations suggest that interactions between these organisms and functions in the marine ecosystem desempañan could be reorganized on a regional scale, triggering a variety of "cascading effects".

24% of the species analyzed did not show any response to warming, which could be due to various reasons, such as lack of resolution in the observations or understanding of the various processes involved and other reasons as evolutionary adaptation.

"Understanding the mechanisms and magnitude of responses of marine organisms to climate change can help predict future impacts and associated costs to society. It also facilitates the adoption of adaptive management strategies effective in mitigating these impacts. This work not only collects the evidence of the widespread effects of climate change on the oceans, but also predicts the future reconfiguration of marine ecosystems and the resources they provide", the researchers conclude.

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Bibliographic Ref.: 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 y Anthony J. Richardson. Global imprint of climate change on marine life. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1958.

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Source: CSIC Communication Office. Translated by Google translate / IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB).