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Sea life 'must swim faster to survive'
Date:11/7/2011

ilometres a decade but sea creatures may have to move several times faster to keep in touch with the water temperature and conditions that best suit them. Team member Associate Professor Anthony Richardson from the School of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Queensland became interested in how species might respond to climate change during his work on a global synthesis of marine climate impacts.

He says, "We have been underestimating the likely impact of climate change on the oceans." As a general rule, it seems sea life will have to move a lot faster and farther to keep up with temperature shifts in the oceans. This applies especially to fish and marine animals living in the equatorial and subarctic seas, and poses a particular issue both for conservation and fisheries management.

Assoc. Professor Richardson explains, "There is also a complex mosaic of responses globally, related to local warming and cooling. For example, our analysis suggests that life in many areas in the Southern Ocean could move northward." However, as a rule, they are likely to be as great or greater in the sea than on land, as a result of its more uniform temperature distribution.

The migration is likely to be particularly pronounced among marine species living at or near the sea surface, or subsisting on marine plants and plankton that require sunlight and less so in the deep oceans.

"Also, as seas around the equator warm more quickly and sea life migrates away north or south in search of cooler water, it isn't clear what, if anything, will replace it," Prof Pandolfi adds. "No communities of organisms from even warmer regions currently exist to replace those moving out."

At the same time, sea life living close to the poles could find itself overwhelmed by marine migrants moving in from warmer regions, in search of cool water.

The team's future research will focus on how different ocean species respond to climate change and they
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Contact: John Pandolfi
j.pandolfi@uq.edu.au
61-073-365-3050
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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