Climate-driven Changes in the Habitat Suitability of Marine Organisms

Publishable summary: 

CLIMAR will advance our mechanistic understanding and predictive capacity of how climate change will redistribute marine species of key economic and ecological importance, creating more robust advice for the sustainable management of living marine resources. CLIMAR provides a step change in the state-of-the-art in predicting ecological impacts resulting from the interaction between climate change warming and Ocean Acidification (CCWOA) across a broad range of species inhabiting contrasting marine regions around the globe. The objectives of CLIMAR are: (1) to develop and employ a standard set of methods to produce mechanistic (physiology-based) metrics of climate sensitivity of key marine species, (2) to predict future changes in the potential distribution of these species which incorporate a range of likely climate change scenarios, and (3) to raise awareness of the potential economic and societal impacts of CCWOA due to changes in the ability of given regions to provide specific ecosystem goods and services such as high species biodiversity and productive fisheries.

CLIMAR is designed to improve our predictive ability of the effect of CCWOA on the potential future distributions of key model species in four case-study regions around the world. Despite the fact that thermal sensitivity of the physiological system is considered to be a fundamental factor driving climate-induced changes in natural communities, most previous models of climate effects are based on ecological rather than physiological data. The innovative approach used in CLIMAR couples data from controlled laboratory experiments defining physiological limits of key species exposed to multiple stressors (temperature and acidification) to physical oceanographic projections to assess the vulnerability of such species to CCWOA. Our projections of how climate impacts the future limits of potential distribution and thermal habitat suitability of key species will aid the design of prioritized adaptation measures with respect to fisheries and conservation of biodiversity. The approach of coupling ecophysiology and oceanographic modelling is generic, can be applied across a wide variety of species, and is applicable around the globe. Communication activities in CLIMAR will engage other scientists studying the effects of global change on marine life or involved in providing management advice to use standard methods with the greatest potential to provide the most robust predictions of CCWOA.

The improved ability to project how CCWOA will change the potential distribution of species of fish and invertebrates will benefit both conservation (via predictions relating to biodiversity) and economic activities (via predictions of fisheries targets). CLIMAR develops tools that will allow opportunities for commercial exploitation in terms of the availability of new species to fisheries (range shifts) and conditions more suitable to the growth of new farmed products (e.g., warm water fishes and shellfish in temperate coastal and offshore areas). In future collaborations, the coupled eco-physiological and physical (habitat) projections of changes in the potential distribution of key marine species stemming from CLIMAR activities can be coupled to spatially-explicit bio-economic models, providing potential exploitation for economic benefits.