Study: wide-ranging species will have an edge in warming seas

From the University of British Columbia – As the oceans warm, wide-ranging species will have an edge

This is a yellowtail amberjack (Seriola lalandi), one of several Pacific coastal species that has extended its range. Credit: Graham Edgar, University of Tasmania.

This is a yellowtail amberjack (Seriola lalandi), one of several Pacific coastal species that has extended its range. Credit: Graham Edgar, University of Tasmania.

Marine species that already have large ranges are extending their territories fastest in response to climate change, according to new research from University of British Columbia biodiversity experts.

The study is one of the first comprehensive looks at how traits–other than thermal niche–impact marine animals’ ability to respond to climate change. It could help improve global predictions of how different species redistribute as the oceans warm, and identify species in greatest jeopardy.

“We have a bit of a mystery as to why some animals are moving quickly into cooler waters, like the green sea urchin that is decimating kelp forests in Tasmania, while other species aren’t moving at all,” says UBC biodiversity researcher Jennifer Sunday, lead author of the study.

“Our findings indicate that animals which already have wide-latitudinal ranges, habitat generalists, and species with high adult mobility displayed the quickest and greatest range shifts. The flip side is that small-ranging species are in increased jeopardy as our planet’s oceans continue to warm.”

The researchers used a global marine hotspot, the fast-warming waters off Australia’s east coast, as their lab. In Eastern Australia, the ocean has been warming four times faster than the global average–and many marine species have been appearing further south than ever before.

By factoring in species traits–along with predictions based on the warming pattern in the region–the researchers were able to more than double their ability to account for variation in range extensions.

The yellowtail kingfish, tiger shark, short-tail stingray and the Maori wrasse were some of the fish species with the largest range shifts in the region. Filter-feeding barnacles–omnivores that are notoriously invasive–also displayed some of the largest expansions of territory.

Meanwhile the spotted handfish, a coastal species in the same region, hasn’t extended its distributional range into cooler waters despite shifting temperatures.

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The study was published today in Ecology Letters.

Species traits and climate velocity explain geographic range shifts in an ocean-warming hotspot

Abstract

Species’ ranges are shifting globally in response to climate warming, with substantial variability among taxa, even within regions. Relationships between range dynamics and intrinsic species traits may be particularly apparent in the ocean, where temperature more directly shapes species’ distributions. Here, we test for a role of species traits and climate velocity in driving range extensions in the ocean-warming hotspot of southeast Australia. Climate velocity explained some variation in range shifts, however, including species traits more than doubled the variation explained. Swimming ability, omnivory and latitudinal range size all had positive relationships with range extension rate, supporting hypotheses that increased dispersal capacity and ecological generalism promote extensions. We find independent support for the hypothesis that species with narrow latitudinal ranges are limited by factors other than climate. Our findings suggest that small-ranging species are in double jeopardy, with limited ability to escape warming and greater intrinsic vulnerability to stochastic disturbances.

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46 thoughts on “Study: wide-ranging species will have an edge in warming seas

  1. Findings aside, if I could impose a requirement for the release of every study, it would be to append these words to every conclusion” ” – Or not.”

  2. a sea urchin has high mobility? I’m no marine biologist but I’d hazard a guess they are “highly mobile” only in the larval stage riding the currents. After that it must take a while for them to hike any where.

    • “Red sea urchin has the longest lifespan on Earth. It can survive up to 200 years in the wild.” But if the ocean were to warm a degree centigrade it would be all over. So sad.
      Hey, shouldn’t all that heat “hiding” in the ocean be killing off all the ocean life by now?

  3. “We find independent support for the hypothesis that species with narrow latitudinal ranges are limited by factors other than climate”
    It would not be a surprise that after more decades of observation, sea temps are found to be low in significance, as these tend to cycle continuously naturally and will have cooled by then.

    • They have found that frail species with highly specific needs are highly specific in their needs and not as robust as those that are adaptable. Who knew?…

  4. How do these conclusions relate to climate change at all?
    The natural order is a constant move of fewer and fewer species occupying ever larger parts of the biosphere. How could anyone be surprised that species which are already wide ranging would continue to be expand their presence

  5. So this research is a “Study:” and not a “Claim:”? Drop the silly tags. People can decide on their own what to think about research with an editorial tag to guide them.

    • If you study the site you will see whayt the difference is.
      “Study” studies the real world. It uses observations. There may be models as well but hey are tested against reality – which is studied.
      “Claim” describes the output of models without testing against reality. It s just an opinion expressed in computer code. It also includes the spoutings of hysterical “experts” based on their hunches..
      There is a clear difference.

  6. same old, same old
    1939-
    WILL THE EARTH GET WARMER? Russian Scientists’ New Theory
    The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954) Friday 7 April 1939 p 6 Article
    … -loving species of fish have migrated in great shoals to waters farther north than they had ever been seen before … Russian meteorologists to a forecast of warmer Winters and hotter Summers for the North and South Pole

  7. “Species’ ranges are shifting globally in response to climate warming,…”
    Just a layman, but it is evident that science knowledge within the oceans will be deemed prehistoric in 100 years. I’ve read so many of these BS ‘studies’ that it is becoming nauseating.
    It is as if nothing ever changed before and now the ‘scientists’ are finding ‘change’ and yes, of course, without a doubt, it is due to the climate warming (which never warmed or cooled before in Ocean Utopia).

  8. Agreeing with everyone about the ludicrousness of this study, but hey they’re just trying to get paid.

  9. Don’t go swimming in Trincomalee. The waters are beautifully warm – nearly up to blood temperature in the harbour, but there are masses of sea urchins on the sea bed. They like really warm water.
    Why does a species NOT shift? Because ‘A’ it is not worried about temperature, and ‘B’ neither is its prey. So why move?
    Why does a species move? Because its prey moves.

  10. And our oceans have “supposedly” warmed how much? Little cause for hyped danger — but that’s “climate science”.
    These continual predictions of “environmental disaster” are as significant as cars whose theft alarms pop off for no reason.
    Perhaps a better comparison — TV commercials are significantly louder than the shows they interspace. That is “climate science” now — it’s all commercials at top volume.
    Eugene WR Gallun

    • Yes, species with wide range adapt easier to different locations, which is why they have wide ranges to begin with. I don’t know what they intended to show with this study, but I hope that they had more ambition than this water-is-wet conclusion.

  11. All these pelagic species have a taper of population on the fringes of their habitat. If you have 10 fishing boats fishing off Massachusetts you most likely will never hear of one being caught. If you have a 1,000 boats you will here of one being hooked every 10 years or so. I dont believe habitat range if these species is being expanded by climate change.

  12. In the ever changing and mysterious climate we live in, we have just discovered that wide ranging species may have an edge in some cases when some parts of the oceans warm up.
    Now, what’s so hard about saying it the correct way?

  13. Was curious about the SE Australia coastal ocean ‘hotspot’. It isn’t a spot. Offshore Water there stretching toward Tasmania has warmed 2C as a result of a strengthening of the East Australia Current flowing south (sort of a down under mini gulf stream). Started about 1925. Causes unknown. Range shifts minor. And BOM has sea surface temperature maps for the region. Today, the ocean surface ranges from 8C west of Tasmania to 15-16C northeast in the center of the EAC. This species range study is trying to sort flysh*t from pepper.

      • The science paper I found said started. Dont know for sure, only read the abstract. The EAC woild have been known before 1925 to the shipping into Melborne and Sidney.

    • Ristvan, how many meters of depth would a fish have to go down to get back the 2C change? What is the temperature / depth profile in ocean waters?

  14. The article summary says,”In Eastern Australia, the ocean has been warming four times faster than the global average–and many marine species have been appearing further south than ever before.”
    I see nothing in he article summary or in the abstract about measurements showing regional ocean warming nor global ocean warming. Nor is any error or uncertainty in these claims mentioned. To assume there has been global air or ocean warming and then go on to analyze the consequences of the assumed effect is not good science. When everything is based on a false assumption, does it have any scientific import?

  15. Our findings suggest that small-ranging species are in double jeopardy, with limited ability to escape warming and greater intrinsic vulnerability to stochastic disturbances.

    What utter nonsense. Food, not temperature is the ultimate determinant of a specie’s territory. In any case, if such a need to “escape warming” and “intrinsic vulnerability to stochastic disturbances” (aka “scientific” gobbledygook and hand-waving) existed, said species would have died out during the MWP.
    These small-minded “researchers” are in double stupidity.

  16. Our findings suggest that small-ranging species are in double jeopardy, with […] greater intrinsic vulnerability to stochastic disturbances.

    Not a small feat, they’ve discovered evolution. Admittedly they’ve arrived a bit late to the party, still… they’ve also discovered warm water, and that establishes them firmly among giants, does not it?

  17. Water temperature varies also by depth, getting cooler as you go deeper. The change in global sea temperatures attributed to climate change could be counter-acted by going a few meters deeper in the water column.
    As any fisherman knows, fish do this all the time to find water more to their, or their preys, liking.
    Silly article.

  18. “In Eastern Australia, the ocean has been warming four times faster than the global average”
    In spite of this we have seen record ice in the Antarctic..Something doesn’t quite add up. I do think these people should become a little more realistic in their efforts to justify their research grants to the gullible grant donors.

  19. research from University of British Columbia
    researchers used a global marine hotspot, the fast-warming waters off Australia’s east coast, as their lab.
    ============
    most important result of study: paid vacation to Oz.

    • fred berple: Yeah, darn, they could have been studying the “warm blob” off the BC coast, but that is actually kind of cold and deep so you don’t get to dive on nice warm reef water. Besides, the fish catch out there will tell them all they need to know, won’t it?

  20. It should say: “IF oceans warm”. Then they should say: “But IF oceans cool” and finish on: “But IF oceans remain the same”. The conclusion should then be: “Species will likely swim to where conditions best suit”. Can I have that grant money now?

  21. “Study: wide-ranging species will have an edge in warming seas”
    Unless they make good sushi, that is.

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