Movement of marine life follows speed and direction of climate change

Sep 12, 2013
The researchers found a "complex mosaic" of climate velocity and species movement in nine areas central to North American fishing industries (above from left to right): the Aleutian Islands (light blue); the eastern Bering Sea (blue); the Gulf of Alaska (light green); the West Coast (purple); the Gulf Coast (orange); the Northeast (peach); Nova Scotia (pink); the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence (red); and Newfoundland (green). The insets (image A) show shifts in the maximum (blue), average (black) and minimum (red) latitude during the period studied for Pacific cod in the Gulf of Alaska, big skate on the West Coast and American lobster in the Northeast. The close-ups of the Eastern Bering Sea (B), the Gulf Coast (C) and Newfoundland (D) show the nuances of regional animal movements that global-scale models often miss. Credit: Image by Science/AAAS

Scientists expect climate change and warmer oceans to push the fish that people rely on for food and income into new territory. Predictions of where and when species will relocate, however, are based on broad expectations about how animals will move and have often not played out in nature. New research based at Princeton University shows that the trick to more precise forecasts is to follow local temperature changes.

The researchers report in the journal Science the first evidence that consistently keep pace with "climate velocity," or the speed and direction in which changes such as move. They compiled 43 years of data related to the movement of 128 million animals from 360 species living around North America, including commercial such as lobster, shrimp and cod. They found that 70 percent of shifts in animals' depth and 74 percent of changes in latitude correlated with regional-scale fluctuations in ocean temperature.

"If we follow the temperature, which is easier to predict, that provides a method to predict where the species will be, too," said first author Malin Pinsky, a former Princeton in ecology and evolutionary biology who is now an assistant professor of at Rutgers University.

"Climate changes at different rates and in different directions in different places," he said. "Animals are basically being exposed to different changes in temperature."

The researchers compiled survey data collected from 1968 to 2011 by American and Canadian fishery-research centers and government panels. The surveys recorded surface and bottom temperatures, as well as the complete mass of animals in nine areas central to North American fisheries: the Aleutian Islands; the eastern Bering Sea; the Gulf of Alaska; the West Coast from Washington to California; the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Mexico; the Northeast coast from North Carolina to Maine; the coast of Nova Scotia; the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence; and the Atlantic Ocean east of Newfoundland.

Details of the surveys revealed that sea creatures adhere to a "complex mosaic of local climate velocities," the researchers reported. On average, changes in temperature for North America moved north a mere 4.5 miles per decade, but in parts of Newfoundland that pace was a speedier 38 miles north per decade. In areas off the U.S. West Coast, temperatures shifted south at 30 miles per decade, while in the Gulf of Mexico velocities varied from 19 miles south to 11 miles north per decade.

Animal movements were just as motley. As a whole, species shifted an average of 5 miles north per decade, but 45 percent of animal specific populations swam south. Cod off Newfoundland moved 37 miles north per decade, while lobster in the northeastern United States went the same direction at 43 miles per decade. On the other hand, pink shrimp, a staple of Gulf Coast fisheries, migrated south 41 miles per decade, the researchers found.

The researchers found that 74 percent of the animals studied changed latitude (A and B) and 70 percent moved to new depths (C and D) in accordance with changes in bottom and surface temperature. The figure shows latitudinal shifts to the north or south (top to bottom) per year, and depth shifts to deeper or shallower (top to bottom) waters in meters per year. Bottom and surface temperature are measured by annual changes in degrees Celsius, either cooler or warmer (left to right). The colors correspond with the regions listed in the figure above. Credit: Image by Science/AAAS

Pinsky worked with Princeton professors Jorge Sarmiento, the George J. Magee Professor of Geoscience and Geological Engineering and director of the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Simon Levin, the George M. Moffett Professor of Biology and professor of ecology and ; second author Boris Worm, a biology professor at Dalhousie University in Canada; and Michael Fogarty, a chief researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.

Daniel Pauly, a professor of fisheries at the University of British Columbia, said that the researchers reveal finer details of marine movements that are crucial for preservation and commercial fishing, yet often get lost in the global-scale models typically used to predict how fish will respond to altered environs. Pauly is familiar with the Princeton research but had no role in it.

Regional factors such as wind can actually counteract warmer water and result in cooler seas, as is the case off the coasts of California and Peru, Pauly said. In addition, fish are extremely sensitive to even slight temperature changes and will quickly seek ideal locales, which can appear like erratic shifts in distribution. Large-scale models based on global averages don't reflect these nuances.

Yet, Pauly said, the researchers also validate larger models by showing that their inconsistencies are due to small-scale variations, and not to a problem with the models as a whole. Writ large, marine species will seek cooler water and in many cases gradually move away from their traditional territory.

"It validates the whole concept of linking the physiology of fish with water temperature and its patterns," Pauly said. "At the end of the day, the overall temperature of the ocean changes. You can have local temperature resistance against the overall pattern, but not for long and not everywhere."

Climate velocity offers countries and regions a precise method for keeping tabs on fleeing fish stocks, Pauly said. Climate change is expected to spark international disputes over fishing territory. In recent years, the movement of mackerel into the far North Atlantic has resulted in diplomatic confrontations between Iceland, Norway and Denmark dubbed the "mackerel wars." Other countries are likely to fall into similar conflicts as fish relocate, such as pollock moving gradually east from American to Russian seas.

"It's therefore worth it for a country to develop regional models because the prediction of the behavior of the fish and their migration will be better. That's what [this research] says," Pauly said. "In the U.S., for instance, you can see the center of the distribution of pollock gradually moving, and so you can say when Russia is going to have 50 percent, or 80 percent, or 90 percent of the stock."

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New research based at Princeton University shows that the trick to predicting when and where sea animals will relocate due to climate change is to follow the pace and direction of temperature changes, known as climate velocity. The researchers compiled 43 years of survey data on the movement of 128 million animals living around North America. Shifts in the animals' depth and latitude correlated with regional-scale fluctuations in ocean temperature. On average, changes in temperature moved north at 4.5 miles per decade and species shifted an average of 5 miles north per decade. But species-specific movements varied greatly. For example, lobster in the northeastern United States (above) moved north at a pace of 43 miles per decade. Nearly half of all species studied moved south. Credit: Leah Lewis and D. Richardson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Efforts to predict fish migration, however, have lagged behind campaigns to prevent overfishing, Pinsky said. While overfishing is an immediate problem, regulators should not ignore , particularly because fish populations affected by both changing climates and overfishing are especially vulnerable to collapse.

"We don't want to restrict fishing when not needed, or blame climate change for a species collapse when fishing is to blame," Pinsky said. "There have not been many attempts before to connect fine-scale biological data with fine-scale climate data. Our research implies that climate can be very useful for predicting marine distribution shifts. We expect these species to follow climate velocity in the future."

An idea first proposed in 2009, climate velocity explains why as many as 60 percent of land and sea species have deviated from the expectation that rising global temperatures would drive animals toward cooler high latitudes and elevations, or deeper waters, the researchers report. Instead, animals follow local temperatures, which over the next few decades may warm or cool even as global temperatures overall are rising, Pinsky said.

In the case of ocean temperatures, the march of balmy tides depends on currents, changes in the atmosphere, and geological features on the shore and in the ocean. The temperatures that species prefer tend to move toward the poles, but not as a single wave. In some cases, local changes in water temperature move away from the poles, or to deep water. As a result, the researchers found that 73 percent of animals that moved south and 75 percent that relocated to shallower waters were following temperature changes.

"We're just starting to understand how climate affects species, and it's been common to talk about broad patterns like species shifting toward the poles as climate warms," Pinsky said. "The problem has been that many species are not shifting toward the poles, and even of those species that are, some are shifting quickly and others slowly. Scientists were asking themselves, 'Why aren't certain species doing what we expect?' It turns out they are, we just had to alter our expectations."

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More information: The paper, "Marine Taxa Track Local Climate Velocities," was published Sept. 13 by Science.

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mememine69
1.4 / 5 (20) Sep 12, 2013
Science has never agreed it will be an inevitable crisis, they only agreed it "could" be and have never agreed it will be an eventual crisis. So why are you believers saying it WILL be a crisis when science hasn't said it yet in 28 years of "research"?
97.3% of scientists believe it could be a catastrophic climate crisis and 97.4% of humanity believes it WON'T be an actual crisis.
Get up to date girls:
*Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
Neinsense99
2.5 / 5 (13) Sep 12, 2013
Science has never agreed it will be an inevitable crisis, they only agreed it "could" be and have never agreed it will be an eventual crisis. So why are you believers saying it WILL be a crisis when science hasn't said it yet in 28 years of "research"?
97.3% of scientists believe it could be a catastrophic climate crisis and 97.4% of humanity believes it WON'T be an actual crisis.
Get up to date girls:
*Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.

Copy and paste, copy and paste.... I suppose for some it might be a challenge.
NikFromNYC
1.2 / 5 (17) Sep 13, 2013
Actual link: http://www.scienc...39.short
Supplement: http://www.scienc...y.SM.pdf

Ego Saving Doublespeak: 'Why aren't certain species doing what we expect?' It turns out they are, we just had to alter our expectations."

Analogy: "Why isn't climate doing what we expect? It turns out it is, we just had to alter our expectations."

Finding: "...60 percent of land and sea species have deviated from the expectation that rising global temperatures would drive animals toward cooler high latitudes and elevations, or deeper waters, the researchers report. Instead, animals follow local temperatures, which over the next few decades may warm or cool even as global temperatures overall are rising."

Translation: The actual *majority* of animals are moving *backwards* to the now two decade long indoctrination of all state schooled Western school kids that Nemo is headed to the Arctic because of evil oil companies.
NikFromNYC
1.3 / 5 (15) Sep 13, 2013
The supplementary info for this study bluntly falsifies headlines that claim that the ocean is suddenly surging in temperature:
http://s12.postim...ling.jpg

Only one of their eight studied sites shows significant warming! Over four decades, half of them show little trend and the others show significant *cooling*. That's what you indeed "alternatively" expect at a period in time in which the natural ocean current cycles are currently exiting their positive heat release phase that was profitably blamed on CO₂ and entering their negative heat absorbing phase that nearly all of academic and professional spokespersons claim is with a near 100% certainty not going to happen since there is a single bullet that controls climate, a single knob, even though the indeterminate physics of chaotic fluid dynamics alone mocks them ever more loudly as they double down on the scam. Who is most privy to the fact that there is no enhanced Global Warming signal in real data?
NikFromNYC
1.3 / 5 (16) Sep 13, 2013
Single bullet theory activism created the Food Pyramid that told parents to feed their kids processed carbohydrates which promote obesity, diabetes and heart disease and now promotes the Carbon Footprint Calculator that justifies artificial energy rationing that prevents the economic boom needed to render those kid's fixed dollar amount student loans to be inflated away.

Junk science activism bankrupts and sickens entire generations so maybe standup comic Bill Nye's "Science Guy" persona isn't the best policy adviser after all, eh? His mere undergraduate degree matches that of the soft core pulp guru story novelist and head of the IPCC: engineering. Nye's activism has however granted him not one but two honorary Ph.D.s in the last few years as he appears in the tabloids next to movie stars when his five month long marriages to performers end with weed killer events. He worked on a technical NASA project like Jim Hansen did, but now he's an iconically famous millionaire. So $elfle$$!
runrig
4.8 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2013
natural ocean current cycles are currently exiting their positive heat release phase that was profitably blamed on CO₂ and entering their negative heat absorbing phase...

The current neutral ENSO phase follows some years of mainly La Nina (cool) phases and as this region of the eastern tropical Pacific is a major heat engine, releasing vast amounts of energy into the atmosphere via LH of condensation - then it is intuitive that there has been a pause in atmospheric warming. This graph shows the trend lines in El Nino, La Nina and neutral years over the last 40. Whatever the phase, there is an overlying warming. AGW. Science knows of this and has factored out its contribution to warming (and cooling ), because it is of course cyclic, adding no net heat to the climate system.
http://blog.chron...nes.pdf/

The swing to/from cool/warm phases contributes ~0.2C, whereas AGW has contributed ~0.7C in 40 years.
Gmr
3.1 / 5 (7) Sep 13, 2013
Ah... the inevitable descent into credentialism. I guess everybody has to have a hobby.
no fate
4.2 / 5 (5) Sep 13, 2013
Fish follow their food source. Climate correlation is secondary for our foodstock due to the fact that what our fish stocks eat and how those organisms react to climate change will be the driver of stock migration. For the temperature variations we are talking about vs. the fish we eat, we should be looking at smaller organisms which constitute the diet of our stock as those organisms are likely to be the ones more sensitive to smaller shifts in temperature associated with climate change.

This may have been mentioned in the original paper, if so, apologies.
Howhot
4 / 5 (4) Sep 15, 2013
@Nik, You make a lot of noise about the fact scientist have to alter their understanding of how nature works which we do all of the time as evidence develops to alter a hypothesis in a process called the Scientific Method. But then you cap it off with this "Junk science activism" cow manure.

@Nik says
but now he's an iconically famous millionaire. So ...
. Interesting your whinny antis science complaints have made him ever more famous than he would have been.