Climate Change: Marine Biodiversity's Profound Changes to Come
Biodiversity undergoes many challenges when faced by climate change. Essentially, in warming areas species have one of two choices: to move out and potentially harm native species of new regions or face extinction. In a study published in Nature Climate Change, researchers modeled these impacts on almost 13 thousand marine species. This is twelve times more species than previously studied.
"This study was particularly useful because it not only gave us hope that species have the potential to track and follow changing climates but it also gave us cause for concern, particularly in the tropics, where strong biodiversity losses were predicted," co-author, Professor John Pandolfi from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at the University of Queensland said in a statement. He also noted that global patterns of species richness will change significantly, with considerable regional variability.
"This is especially worrying, and highly germane to Australia's coral reefs, because complementary studies have shown high levels of extinction risk in tropical biotas, where localized human impacts as well as climate change have resulted in substantial degradation," he explained in the release.
When modeling the effects of climate change on biodiversity, researchers used climate-velocity trajectories. This is a measurement that combines the rate and direction of movement of ocean temperature bands over time, together with information about thermal tolerance and habitat preference. The results provided the simplest expectation for future marine biodiversity, where reoccurring spatial patterns of high rates of species invasions were coupled with local extinctions, the release said.
"Above all, this study shows the broad geographic connections of the effects of climate change -- conservation efforts need to be facilitated by cooperation among countries to have any real chance of combating the potentially severe biodiversity losses that a changing climate might impose," Pandolfi said in the release.
According to the ARC Centre of Excellence, Dr. David Schoeman, from the University of the Sunshine Coast, said in the release that the model suggests that there is still time to act to prevent major climate-related extinctions outside of the topics. "Results under a scenario in which we start actively mitigating climate change over the next few decades indicate substantially fewer extinction than results from a business-as-usual scenario."
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