Fish and other sea creatures will have to travel large distances to survive climate change, international marine scientists have warned. Sea life, particularly in the Indian Ocean, the Western and Eastern Pacific and the subarctic oceans will face growing pressures to adapt or relocate to escape extinction, according to a new study by an international team of scientists published in the journal Science.
"Our research shows that species which cannot adapt to the increasingly warm waters they will encounter under climate change will have to swim farther and faster to find a new home," says team member Professor John Pandolfi of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland.
Using 50 years' data of global temperature changes since the 1960s, the researchers analysed the shifting climates and seasonal patterns on land and in the oceans to understand how this will affect life in both over the coming century.
"We examined the velocity of climate change (the geographic shifts of temperature bands over time) and the shift in seasonal temperatures for both land and sea. We found both measures were higher for the ocean at certain latitudes than on land, despite the fact that the oceans tend to warm more slowly than air over the land."
The finding has serious implications especially for marine biodiversity hotspots such as the famous Coral Triangle and reefs that flourish in equatorial seas, and for life in polar seas, which will come under rising pressure from other species moving in, the team says.
"Unlike land-dwelling animals, which can just move up a mountain to find a cooler place to live, a sea creature may have to migrate several hundred kilometres to find a new home where the water temperature, seasonal conditions and food supply all suit it," Prof. Pandolfi says.
Under current global warming, land animals and plants are migrating polewards at a rate of about 6 k
|Contact: John Pandolfi|
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies