Marine life migrating to the Poles and cooler waters, probably due to climate change

The Guardian reports, 5th August 2013: “Rising ocean temperatures are rearranging the biological make-up of our oceans, pushing species towards the poles by 7kms every year, as they chase the climates they can survive in, according to new research. The study, conducted by a working group of scientists from 17 different institutions, gathered data from seven different countries and found the warming oceans are causing marine species to alter their breeding, feeding and migration patterns.

Surprisingly, land species are shifting at a rate of less than 1 km a year in comparison, even though land surface temperatures are rising at a much faster rate than those in the ocean. “In general, the air is warming faster than the ocean because the air has greater capacity to absorb temperature. So we expected to see more rapid response on land than in the ocean. But we sort of found the inverse,” said study researcher Dr Christopher Brown, post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute.

The warming oceans are shortening winter and bringing on spring and all the events that come with it — like breeding events and planktonplankton Plankton is a generic term for a wide variety of the smallest yet most important organisms form that drift in our oceans. They can exist in larger forms of more than 20cm as the larval forms of jellyfish, squid, starfish, sea urchins, etc. and can be algae, bacterial or even viral down to as small as 0.2µm. They are nutrient and light dependent, and form the essential foodchain baseline for larger dependent aquatic lifeforms. Fish species rely on the density and distribution of zooplankton to coincide with first-feeding larvae for good survival of their larvae, which can otherwise starve. Man-made impacts such as dredging, dams on rivers, waste dumping, etc can severely affect zooplankton density and distribution, which can in turn strongly affect larval survival and thus breeding success and stock strength of fish species and the entire ecosystem. They also form the essential basis of CO2 take up in our seas ecosystem, hence Global Warming. blooms — earlier than normal. For the species that can’t keep moving towards the colder waters, this could have dire consequences.

“Some species like barnacles and lots of shellfish are constrained to living on the coast, so in places like Tasmania, if they’re already at the edge of the range there’s nowhere for them to go. You could potentially lose those,” said Brown.

The scientists found that 81% of the study’s observations supported the hypothesis that climate change was behind the changes seen.

Source: The Guardian, 5th August 2013. For the full text, see http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/05/climate-change-pushing-marine-species-to-poles

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