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Greenhouse ocean may downsize fish
Date:1/11/2008

The last fish you ate probably came from the Bering Sea.

But during this century, the seas rich food webstretching from Alaska to Russiacould fray as algae adapt to greenhouse conditions.

All the fish that ends up in McDonalds, fish sandwichesthats all Bering Sea fish, said USC marine ecologist Dave Hutchins, whose former student at the University of Delaware, Clinton Hare, led research published Dec. 20 in Marine Ecology Progress Series, a leading journal in the field.

At present, the Bering Sea provides roughly half the fish caught in U.S. waters each year and nearly a third caught worldwide.

The experiments we did up there definitely suggest that the changing ecosystem may support less of what were harvestingthings like pollock and hake, Hutchins said.

While the study must be interpreted cautiously, its implications are harrowing, Hutchins said, especially since the Bering Sea is already warming.

It's kind of a canary in a coal mine because it appears to be showing climate change effects before the rest of the ocean, he noted.

Its warmer, marine mammals and birds are having massive die-offs, there are invasive speciesin general, its changing to a more temperate ecosystem thats not going to be as productive.

Carbon dioxides direct effects on the ocean are often overlooked by the public.

Its all a good start that people get worried about melting ice and rising sea levels, he said. But we're now driving a comprehensive change in the way Earth's ecosystem worksand some of these changes don't bode well for its future.

The study examined how climate change affects algal communities of phytoplankton, the heart of marine food webs.

Phytoplankton use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into carbon-based food. As small fish eat the plankton and bigger fish eat the smaller fish, an entire ecosystem develops.

The Bering Sea is highly productive thanks mainly to di
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Contact: Terah DeJong
tdejong@usc.edu
213-740-8606
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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