Direct effects of climate warming on biodiversity pose a serious conservation challenge for marine life, according to new research published in Science. Marine life may need to relocate faster than land species as well as speed up alterations in the timing of major life cycle events. This challenges previous thinking that marine life in the ocean would respond more gradually than species on land because of slower warming in the oceans.
"Analyses of global temperature found that the rate at which marine life needs to relocate is as fast, or in some places faster, than for land species. This is despite ocean warming being three times slower than land" says paper co-author, Dr Elvira Poloczanska from CSIRO's Climate Adaptation Flagship.
Dr Poloczanska said that globally, an increasing number of species are responding to climate change by changing their distributions and the timing of life cycle events such as breeding, spawning and migrations.
She said that a one degree change in ocean temperature may mean that marine plants and animals will have to travel hundreds of kilometres to stay in their comfort zones. This can present major problems for marine organisms, particularly those that are unable to move long distances such as corals.
This collaborative work was led by Dr Mike Burrows from the Scottish Association of Marine Science, UK, and Dr David Schoeman of the University of Ulster, UK, and is a product from the Marine Impacts Working Group at the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, California. Dr Poloczanska and Associate Professor Anthony J. Richardson from the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship and the University of Queensland lead the working group.
Writing in Science, the team considered two indicators to measure the pace of change in temperatures over the past 50 years: the shift in temperature across the landscape and seascape, and; the shift in temperature seasonality with warming
|Contact: Anne Leitch|