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No ‘safe space’ for 12 key ocean species on North American West Coast

Dungeness Crab

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

For the generations who grew up watching Finding Nemo, it may come as no surprise that the North American west coast has its own version of the underwater ocean highway: the California Current marine ecosystem (CCME). The CCME stretches from the southernmost tip of California to Washington. Seasonal updrafts of cold, nutrient-rich water form the backbone of a larger food web of krill, squid, fish, seabirds and marine mammals. However, climate change and subsequent changes in ocean pH, temperature and oxygen levels are altering the CCME — and not in a good way.

New research led by McGill University, biology professor Jennifer Sunday, and professor Terrie Klinger of the Washington Ocean Acidification Center within the University of Washington’s EarthLab, warns that climate impacts will have significant impacts over the next 80 years on 12 economically and culturally important species that control the planet. housing CCME. The northern part of this region and areas closer to the coast will respond most strongly to changing ocean conditions within this environment. The region can expect significant loss of crown-forming kelp, declining survival rates of red urchin, Dungeness crab and razor clams, as well as a loss of aerobic habitat for anchovy and pink shrimp.

Effects of changing climate are complex

Evaluating the biological effects of several environmental variables simultaneously reveals the complexity of climate sensitivity research. For example, while some expected environmental changes will boost metabolism and increase consumption and growth, accompanying changes in other variables, or even the same ones, could potentially lower survival rates. In particular, physiological gains (such as in size, consumption, or motility) are not always beneficial, especially when resources – such as food and oxygenated water – are limited.

Of all the modeled climate effects, ocean acidification was associated with the greatest decrease in individual biological rates in some species, but the greatest increase in others. This result highlights the need for continued research and monitoring to provide accurate, actionable information.

Modeling crucial to protect coastal ecosystems and the future of fisheries

Investing in predictive models and implementing adaptation strategies will become increasingly important to protect our ecosystems, coastal cultures and livelihoods locally. Similar challenges will arise in species not addressed in this study, and responses will be complicated by the arrival of invasive species, disease outbreaks and future changes in nutrient supply.

These species sensitivities are likely to have socioeconomic impacts felt on the West Coast, but they are unlikely to affect everyone and every place equally. Given that the area is highly productive and supports the fishing and livelihoods of tens of millions of West Coast residents, it could predict population-level changes for a range of species likely to be affected, shed light on potential economic impacts and optimal adaptive measures for the future.

“Now is the time to accelerate science-based action,” said Jennifer Sunday, an assistant professor in McGill’s Department of Biology and the paper’s lead author. She echoes the messages of the recent UN Ocean Conference in 2022 and the accompanying WOAC side event. “Integrating scientific information, predictive models and monitoring tools into local and regional decision-making can promote marine resource management and contribute to human well-being as we face unavoidable changes in the marine life that supports us.”

Ocean warming threatens richest marine biodiversity

More information:
Jennifer M. Sunday et al, Biological sensitivities to high-resolution climate change projections in California’s current marine ecosystem, Global Change Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/gcb.16317

Provided by McGill University

Quote: No ‘safe space’ for 12 major ocean species on the North American west coast (2022, July 28) retrieved July 28, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-07-safe-space-key-ocean- species .html

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