Scientists predict major shifts in Pacific ecosystems by 2100

Sep 24, 2012
ocean

What if you woke up every day to find that the closest grocery store had moved several miles farther away from your home? Over time, you would have to travel hundreds of extra miles to find essential food for yourself and your family. This is potentially a scenario faced by thousands of marine animals affected by climate change.

A new study published in Nature Climate Change examines the distribution of various open animals in the North Pacific and explores how that could change over the next century as global increase and productivity levels shift. The researchers conclude that some critical could undergo significant changes in location, moving more than 600 miles from where they are now, while other habitats could remain relatively unchanged.

Among large animals, loggerhead turtles, some sharks and may face the harshest while some seabirds may actually benefit. Not only are species at risk, but also coastal communities and industries could feel the impact since top predator habitat shifts can result in the displacement of fisheries and ecotourism, such as whale watching.

"For species already stressed by overfishing or other human impacts, increased migration time and loss of habitat could be a heavy blow," said Elliott Hazen, a researcher on the project who is affiliated with the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford. "But if we can build some plausible scenarios of how marine ecosystems may change, this may help efforts to prioritize and proactively manage them."

In order to carry out their study, the authors employed complex mathematical models with data from the decade-long "Tagging of Pacific Predators" (TOPP) project, in which 4,300 placed on 23 species from 2000 to 2009 created unprecedented insight into and hotspots of predator species in the northern Pacific.

of sea surface temperature and chlorophyll-a (used to estimate surface productivity) were combined with the tracking data to identify "key habitat areas" for a variety of different ocean predators. The researchers then used climate models of ocean temperature and productivity to ascertain how those key habitat areas might change in the face of ocean warming.

One of these key habitat areas, known as the North Pacific Transition Zone, marks the interface between cold, nutrient-rich polar water to the north and warmer, nutrient-poor water to the south. This region is used by a variety of ocean predators, including marine mammals, tunas and seabirds, as a corridor across the Pacific Ocean basin. The study suggests that this critical region could shift by as much as 600 miles, resulting in a 20 percent loss of species diversity in the region.

Other critical habitat areas, however, may experience little or no impact. The California Current, which runs along the west coast of North America, supports a variety of open ocean predators each year, when cold, nutrient-rich water creates regions of high productivity. This so-called upwelling cycle would likely continue despite ocean warming. "The fact that tagging indicates this is the number one lunch stop in town along the most populous coast in the nation – and stabilizes in a warming world – increases our opportunity to consider how to protect these hot spots," said Barbara Block, the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences at Stanford, who is heavily involved in TOPP.

Among the Pacific's top predators, turtles, sharks and marine mammals such as whales appear to be most at risk from habitat shifts associated with Pacific warming. In some cases, predicted losses in essential habitat ranged as high as 35 percent.

But animals such as seabirds and tunas may benefit from climate-change-related shifts that could actually increase their potential habitat for foraging due to their broader tolerances to temperature.

"The differences from one species to another is their ability to adapt to temperatures and to use multiple ocean areas," said Hazen. "Having multiple sources of food, migration corridors and areas to call home provides a buffer against climate variability and change."

"Modeling of future scenarios is used in national security, financial investing and other critical areas," said Larry Crowder, the science director of the Center for Ocean Solutions, who was involved in the study.

"Here we use it to envision climate change impacts on large predators in the Pacific so that steps can be taken to better manage species that are important both commercially and for conservation goals," he said.

Based on these predictions, marine and coastal managers may alter fishing catches or revamp marine protected areas.

Explore further: Global change: Trees continue to grow at a faster rate

Related Stories

Tracking top marine predators in a dynamic ocean

Jun 29, 2011

Like the vast African plains, two huge expanses of the North Pacific Ocean are major corridors of life, attracting an array of marine predators in predictable seasonal patterns, according to final results from the Census ...

Seaweed records show impact of ocean warming

Oct 27, 2011

As the planet continues to warm, it appears that seaweeds may be in especially hot water. New findings reported online on October 27 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, based on herbarium records collected in Aus ...

Recommended for you

Global change: Trees continue to grow at a faster rate

14 minutes ago

Trees have been growing significantly faster since the 1960s. The typical development phases of trees and stands have barely changed, but they have accelerated—by as much as 70 percent. This was the outcome ...

Study finds Great Barrier Reef is an effective wave absorber

18 minutes ago

New research has found that the Great Barrier Reef is a remarkably effective wave absorber, despite large gaps between the reefs. This means that landward of the reefs, waves are mostly related to local winds rather than ...

Cape Cod saltmarsh recovery looks good, falls short

32 minutes ago

After decades of decline, grasses have returned to some once-denuded patches of Cape Cod's saltmarshes. To the eye, the marsh in those places seems healthy again, but a new study makes clear that a key service ...

Manure offsets fertiliser's nano-scale changes

35 minutes ago

A UWA study has shown how long-term use of chemical fertilisers changes the soil on a nanoparticle scale and how these changes can be avoided by adding organic matter such as manure.

Red tide off northwest Florida could hit economy

4 hours ago

It's like Florida's version of The Blob. Slow moving glops of toxic algae in the northeast Gulf of Mexico are killing sea turtles, sharks and fish, and threatening the waters and beaches that fuel the region's ...

User comments : 16

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarD
3 / 5 (10) Sep 24, 2012
Now the bloody plants and animals are in on the Global Warming Conspiracy.

We need to establish some good oll Republican PR to get these Plants and Animals in line with the Conservative vision of how the biosphere must function in a competitive universe.

Conservative strategists see the entire biosphere falling to communist forces like a domino due to the influence of pinko Radishes, Alar free Macintosh apples, and Watermelons.

We must never again allow the election of a chocolate president.
NotParker
2 / 5 (12) Sep 24, 2012
The North Pacific is quite cold and has been for 5 years. Alaska, BC, Washington, Oregon and California have been cooling.

California has cooled at -0.79 degF / Decade from 2004 to 2012
and -2.40 degF / Decade from 2007 to 2011.

The cooling is accelerating.

http://www.ncdc.n.../ca.html

JoeBlue
2.3 / 5 (9) Sep 24, 2012
Que the hysteria.
VendicarD
3.4 / 5 (8) Sep 24, 2012
Now what about the other 98% of the world?

"Alaska, BC, Washington, Oregon and California have been cooling." - ParkerTard

Poor mentally diseased ParkerTard. He thinks that people are shrinking because he saw a midget on TV the day before yesterday.
NotParker
2.3 / 5 (9) Sep 24, 2012
"examines the distribution of various open ocean animals in the North Pacific and explores how that could change over the next century as global ocean temperatures increase"

They aren't increasing.

The East Pacific has been cooling since the 1980s.

http://bobtisdale...-pac.png

30 years of cooling. Wow!
DavidW
1 / 5 (4) Sep 24, 2012
Seems to me that there is an attempt to sensationalize what is maybe coming in this article. Math is math. We have many problems that unless fixed, have the potential to wipe out all or most life on earth. This issue, understood correctly or not, is only one of many problems.
I seriously doubt anyone anywhere, that has a working brain and is trying to be serious, would need the information presented in this way. This article will probably have little effect on those of us that are still looking to avoid the truth. Pain and suffering seem be quite convincing to some. We have about 1 child dying every 5 seconds and 1,750 animals every 1 second, right now, that is completely preventable and unnecessary. People that are not currently working to end such wrong now are not likely to be changed by fearful speculation that is based on known facts, as they have already chosen hell on earth for the rest of us at this time.
Anything that's really a problem will be if not for the truth and life.
DavidW
1.6 / 5 (7) Sep 24, 2012
Here is some reading on the air:
http://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/8896
http://www.epa.go...faq.html

What kills the most people in the USA:
http://www.cdc.go...lcod.htm

Some reading on our water:
http://www.nrdc.o...arms.asp

And some more on land:
http://www.fao.or...dex.html

We are not only going to have to all live a vegan lifestyle, (which is a necessary step), but we are going to have to get a bunch more correct too. Everyone is important. Regardless of whether this possible ecosystem collapse/change occurs, we are all going to need to be on spot on so much more stuff or trouble will occur. The only reliable roadmap is the truth.
ScooterG
2 / 5 (8) Sep 24, 2012
As ubavontuba so succinctly stated on 9/23/2012 "Science plus prejudice = nonsense."

The study referred to in this article is nonsense, as the researchers have prejudice.

JoeBlue
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 24, 2012
@ScooterG

From what I can tell all of the AGW supporter's suffer from that.
lairdwilcox
1 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2012
This is great! The Pacific could use some climate change. If things stay the same for too long it probably isn't good. The Pacific has been changing for eons and will continue to do so for the foreseeabe future. It will give obsolete organisims a chance to go extinct and new ones to come along. This is progress and has been happening for billions of years before humans came along and started obsessing about it. Relax. It's OK.
VendicarD
3.7 / 5 (6) Sep 25, 2012
What about the West pacific, the east and West Atlantic, the Arctic ocean, etc?

http://i55.tinypi...h9pf.jpg

"The East Pacific has been cooling since the 1980s." = ParkerTard

Poor ParkerTard. Caught dishonestly cherry picking hi data again;.

ScooterG
2.3 / 5 (6) Sep 25, 2012
@ VendicarD: Would you please explain your use of the suffix "Tard"? And please explain why millions of people affected by special needs should not take offense at your use of this term. Thanks
NotParker
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 25, 2012
What about the West pacific, the east and West Atlantic, the Arctic ocean, etc?


Global SST is flat for 15 years:

http://www.woodfo...97/trend

Only AGW cult members deny flat line from 1997.

rubberman
3.8 / 5 (4) Sep 27, 2012
@ VendicarD: Would you please explain your use of the suffix "Tard"? And please explain why millions of people affected by special needs should not take offense at your use of this term. Thanks


Please explain why the millions who understand climate science shouldn't take offence to your uninformed, childish remarks on every string you post in.
ScooterG
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2012
@ VendicarD: Would you please explain your use of the suffix "Tard"? And please explain why millions of people affected by special needs should not take offense at your use of this term. Thanks


Please explain why the millions who understand climate science shouldn't take offence to your uninformed, childish remarks on every string you post in.


rubberman, that's a very childish remark.
Suggest you and vendicar take a weekend and volunteer to help at a Special Olympics event. SO can always use extra help and will be extremely grateful. Working at an SO event will probably change the way you look at life.
DavidW
1 / 5 (4) Sep 28, 2012
True and life save the world. That's just how it is. That's the way and that will never change. We are all equal under the truth that we cannot change the past. The truth says we are all important. Dismissing the truth of our equality and importance in ANY converstaion will not yeild anything meaninful. Seems most of us already known this, but don't live it at times. People blowing steam on the internet...

All of us have special needs and are important.