Warming of Oceans Poses Threat to Diverse Marine Life

Published on: 20 July 2022
by KnowESG
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More than 70 per cent of the most biodiverse regions of the Earth's oceans are threatened by future warming, according to a study led by academics from the University of Adelaide and a team of international scientists.

Lead author Dr. Stuart Brown from the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute said: "Our research shows that locations with exceptionally high marine biodiversity are the most exposed to future oceanic warming, making them particularly vulnerable to 21st-century climatic change."

"This is because species living in these biodiverse regions are generally ill-equipped to respond to large changes in temperature."

The researchers were able to map worldwide exposure to future climate change and determine the distances plants and animals in sensitive places must travel to follow favourable climatic conditions using a novel method for comparing historical and future extreme rates of oceanic warming.

"In many cases, this will require moving distances beyond the oceanic regions that these species evolved in and are adapted to, at rates of movement rarely seen for marine life," said Dr. Brown.

University of Adelaide's Associate Professor Damien Fordham, also from the Environment Institute, stated: "By showing that areas of high marine biodiversity are disproportionately exposed to future warming, our results provide important new information for deriving and strengthening conservation actions to safeguard marine biodiversity under climate change."

The majority of reef-building coral species, which provide ecosystem services that support the livelihoods of millions of people, are found in the most vulnerable maritime ecosystems. Manatees and other marine megafauna are found in other susceptible places.

"While we have known for some years that recent human-induced climate change is affecting marine life through shifts in species distributions and abundances, the spatial pattern of exposure to past and future fast rates of ocean warming has been unclear," said Fordham.

"By showing that areas of high marine biodiversity are disproportionately exposed to future warming, our results provide important new information for deriving and strengthening conservation actions to safeguard marine biodiversity under climate change.

"Actions that strengthen ecological and evolutionary resilience to climate change should be a priority. These could include improving fisheries management, assisting the movement of species, and the expansion of well-managed, climate-smart marine protected areas."

Even under a somewhat conservative scenario of future climate change, hotspots of marine biodiversity are extremely vulnerable to increased ocean warming, according to research published in Global Change Biology.

Source: Phys.org

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