Shifting climate as a predictor for change in marine biodiversity at local, regional and global scales

Lead Research Organisation: Marine Biological Association
Department Name: Marine Biology

Abstract

Climate change affects everyone and every living thing on the planet. There is a general agreement among scientists that the world is warming, and that burning coal, gas and oil by people is the main reason for this, through the production of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide.

As people living in poverty are vulnerable to the effects of change, so are those organisms living near their tolerance limits for temperature, and other environmental factors, at the edges of their geographical ranges on the planet. A small increase in temperature might mean little to those in the middle of their comfort zone but, to those animals and plants already at their extreme limits, this can mean the difference between life and death. Small warming in global and regional temperatures will mean that new environments, that were previously too cold, will become habitable thus extending current distributions whereas, at the other end of the scale, some areas will start to experience temperatures that are too warm and the organism dies out in the region. Thus, the patterns of temperature change can be used to show how species' boundaries could shift as a consequence of climate change.

Similarly, temperature can be the signal for when many animals breed, start migrating and for when plants grow, flower, and fruit. In a warming world spring temperatures are becoming earlier and autumn temperatures are delayed, so if animals or plants are to operate best in their new climates they should adjust when they undertake their seasonal events like mating or producing leaves and flowers.

We have developed a way of turning measurements and projections for climate change into expectations for changes in animals and plant distributions, using an existing measurement called the 'velocity of climate change', and for changes in seasonal events, using a new approach developed by ourselves called the 'seasonal climate shift'. These measures show by how much life should have shifted its operations over the last 50 years to stay in the same temperatures. In this project we wish to see how well this new approach matches up with observed responses of marine life to climate change in order that it can be used by conservation and wildlife decision makers. The sources of biological evidence have already been compiled into a database, but the detailed comparisons have not yet been made.

Our project has six aims:

1. We wish to compare patterns of velocity and biodiversity across the globe, and see how life in fast moving climates differs from that in slow moving climates.

2. We want to see whether there will be a loss of species in some areas and a gain in others, for example where land obstructs the climate-driven movement of life in the ocean, as predicted by the patterns of movement of average temperatures.

3. Velocity of climate change allows us to predict by how far and at what rate life should have moved over particular periods. We want to compare our predictions with observed changes, and see how well these match up.

4. In a similar way, our 'seasonal climate shift' will be used to predict the changes in timing of seasonal events for those changes in timing already reported and for changes in timing that have not yet been analysed in this way.

5. We will make predictions on the effects of future climate-related change by applying our methods to the ocean temperatures predicted by global climate models for 2010-2100.

6. Finally, we want to make the findings of the project as widely applicable as possible. We will start this process by preparing recommendations for the layout of protected areas in the ocean to allow for the longest possible effects of any protection, to help life move from one place to another while still enjoying protection, and to help manage change in seasonal efforts like fishing.

Planned Impact

The proposed research builds recent research undertaken by three of the PIs on building methods of quantifying climate shifts through space and time. The proposed research will advance this concept by calculating these measures at finer spatial scales, by incorporating other environmental parameters, and by comparing associated predictions with observed species range shifts and phenological change. These global and regional projections of climate-biodiversity relationships will potentially provide novel assessments of the current state and future impacts of climate change that can aid the decision-making processes of managers and policymakers within the UK, Europe and internationally.
More specifically, initial outputs from this research will be feed directly into the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report due for publication in 2014 by providing Velocity of Climate Change (VoCC) and Seasonal Climate Shift (SCS) estimates at sufficient resolution to contribute to regional assessments of the current state and future impacts of climate change. The co-ordinating lead author of Chapter 30: Oceans, Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, has expressed his strong support for the research proposed (see letter of support) and pathways exist through the PIs' (Burrows and Schoeman) and International co-investigators' (Poloczanska and Halpern) roles as authors on Chapter 30: Oceans and through existing collaborations with co-authors of a number of other chapters. This will ensure rapid uptake of project outcomes by the IPCC.
In addition, outcomes of the proposed research will provide evidence of current and future physiographic conditions with our global climate projections potentially able to predict change in biodiversity and thereby provide novel inputs to marine spatial planning. As such our project will directly enable the UK and other European member States to meet statuary obligations under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the pending Northern Ireland equivalent. Outputs from this proposed research project will be specifically tailored to meet these objectives. Managers and policymakers tasked with meeting these statuary obligations will directly feed in their requirements via policy workshops (see Pathways to Impact) and through the PIs' existing roles in providing expert scientific advice on various science-to-policy committees (see Pathways to Impact).
Outcomes of our proposed research will also resonate with the media, politicians and the general public. These groups have lost confidence in climate science over the last few years, both in the UK and internationally. It is therefore important that climate change scientists communicate their methods and results in a transparent manner to increase public awareness of climate science and the degree to which its purported impacts are supported by robust observations. Our project will use a variety of tools to communicate with these groups including: a project website; blogs and Twitter; regular press releases and through existing dissemination tools, such as the UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) and the Australian National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility Annual Report Cards on the present and future physical and biological impacts of climate change. PIs and international co-investigators are existing authors on these reports and therefore pathways exist to ensure uptake of project outcomes. PIs will engage with their local Members of Parliament through whom it will be possible to address the wider parliamentary audience via specialist media such as the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) briefings. Using such a broad range of communication techniques will enable rapid uptake of our project results by a large proportion of society, in so doing increasing their understanding of the global impacts of marine climate change.

Publications

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Hobday A (2018) Categorizing and Naming Marine Heatwaves in Oceanography

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Holbrook NJ (2019) A global assessment of marine heatwaves and their drivers. in Nature communications

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Meneghesso C (2020) Remotely-sensed L4 SST underestimates the thermal fingerprint of coastal upwelling in Remote Sensing of Environment

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Oliver ECJ (2018) Longer and more frequent marine heatwaves over the past century. in Nature communications

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Poloczanska E (2016) Responses of Marine Organisms to Climate Change across Oceans in Frontiers in Marine Science

 
Description Climate change is causing a large-scale shift in marine species distributions towards higher latitude, cooler waters. The rates of change are species-specific, causing resultant shifts in community composition, structure and functioning. Knock-on effects up the food chain are resulting from range shifts in seaweed and invertebrate species including northward movement of commercial species such as cod in UK regional seas.
Exploitation Route Analyses of whether species geographic movement responses match, lead or lag the velocity at which climate is changing are important to know whether species are primarily driven by changes in the regional climate or some other factor, or whether there are biological factors causing lags in response time that may delay or accelerate extinction events.
Sectors Environment

 
Description So far our initial work on shifting climates has been cited over 200 times since 2011 and contributes two figures to the Firth Assessment of the IPCC, in a chapter (The Ocean) and a cross chapter box (Cross-chapter box on observed global responses of marine biogeography, abundance, and phenology to climate change).
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Development of a seaweed harvesting industry: Wild seaweed harvesting as a diversification opportunity for fishermen
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Citation in systematic reviews
 
Description MCCIP Annual Report Card
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description Commissioned report: Development of an MSFD intertidal rocky shore indicator for climate change response and an interim assessment of UK shores
Amount £27,000 (GBP)
Organisation NatureScot 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 04/2017
 
Description HLF funding for the CoCoast Capturing our Coast Citizen Science project led by Newcastle University
Amount £1,700,000 (GBP)
Organisation Heritage Lottery Fund 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2015 
End 10/2018
 
Description EU Cost Action: MARCONS workshop, Haifa, March 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A 5-day EU-funded workshop in Haifa Israel on the idea of climate refugia - places where impacts of climate may be least and where conservation efforts may be more likely to achieve significant impact. The workshop resulted in an opinion piece in Nature and an ongoing manuscript in preparation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-05869-5
 
Description Invited Lecture Ocean Genome Legacy & INSHORE 2014 Workshop, Boston USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact 50 students attended this workshop where I lectured on the methodology and results from climate change and ocean acidification research that I have carried out.

Students wanted further information on how to pursue a career in climate impacts research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited Seminar Exeter University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Guest seminar to disseminate the research outputs from the grant funded mesocosm experiments and related field studies.

Several researchers initiated contact to discuss the findings and potential new collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Invited Seminar Newcastle University 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Post-seminar discussion and Q&A session

Further requests for reprints and information on my research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description NZ Marsden fund workshop of effects of temperature on marine ecosystems 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was a week-long workshop in Auckland, New Zealand on the mechanisms underpinning biological responses to climate change, from fundamental considerations of changing enzyme kinetics on growth rates and their optima in eukaryotes and prokaryotes, to global patterns of ecological change in regard to species distributions and their physiological and ecological responses across experienced ranges in temperature.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public lecture to citizen scientists under the CoCoast project 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I gave a public talk on climate change effects on rocky intertidal systems, drawing on wider global analyses. The talk is available on Youtube
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u684MWqabAQ
 
Description Public talk on climate change in the ocean to Glasgow Probus - January 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a hour-long talk on the effects of climate change to a group of retired professional and business people from the Glasgow area, including ex academics. Insightful and interesting questions resulted in the following discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://kelvinprobus.org/
 
Description Publicising a paper on range extensions in fish 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed for the Independent to publicize a new paper on reports of species outside their usual ranges. The reporter was very taken with the idea, albeit presenting it with a large slice of journalistic licence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/sea-snail-global-warming-journey-north-climate-change-corne...