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Changes in the ocean are affecting and reshaping the mix of fish


26 November 2019

Climate change is impacting the communities of sea life, according to scientists.

Tiffany Hionas

An international team of scientists have discovered that as global temperatures rise, warm-water marine life are rapidly increasing while cold-water species are decreasing.

The team looked at how ocean warming is disrupting the communities of fish, assessing invertebrates such as crabs and other crustaceans and plankton across two continents and two oceans; the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. Their comprehensive assessment compiled three million records of species cover 200 ecological communities between 1985 and 2014.

The data suggests that temperature is a fundamental factor for causing disruption to marine ecosystems, with evidence showing that warmer areas are largely responsible for the restructuring of fish communities.

However, the data also suggests certain species are finding ways to avoid harm from the warm areas, with some able to seek refuge in cooler, deeper water.

The data confirms that warming areas are experiencing the dominance of warm-water species, while in oceans with stable temperatures, species dominance has had little disruption or change.

Pinsky, associate professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, states that the next steps will involve trying to ‘understand how the changes we see in the ocean compare with those on land and in freshwater ecosystems.’

DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0631-5

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