Warming Affects Marine Life More Than Terrestrial Life

Written by on August 8, 2013 in Marine Life
North East Tasmania is one area where the distribution of marine species is changing rapidly.

North East Tasmania is one area where the distribution of marine species is changing rapidly. Photo credit: Elvira Poloczanska, CSIRO.

A new global study reveals that warming oceans are impacting the breeding patterns and habitat of marine life.

The three-year research project showed widespread shifts in species distribution and other measures on a scale that, in many instances, is greater than similar changes on land. This is the first ‘comprehensive documentation’ of what effects climate change is already having on marine environments.

Researchers documented 1,735 changes found in peer-reviewed literature from around the world. The team found that of those changes, 81 percent were consistent with climate change.

Here are some of the biggest changes:

  • Some marine species like phytoplankton and bony fish are moving towards the poles at an average rate of 72km per decade–much faster than the terrestrial average of only 6km per decade.
  • Winter and spring ocean (and land) temperatures are warming fastest.
  • Many lifecycle events, like migrating, breeding and spawning, are occurring earlier. Marine species advanced by an average of 4.4 days each decade compared to only 2.3-2.8 days faster for terrestrial species.

“These results highlight the urgent need for governments around the globe to develop adaptive management plans to ensure the continued sustainability of the world’s oceans and the goods and services they provide to human society,” said Dr. Pippa Moore, one of the researchers from Aberystwyth University.

What else will happen as ocean temperatures rise?

  • As water heats up, it expands which will contribute to sea-level rise.
  • There is a possibility for stronger, more frequent tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • Invasive species that inhabit warm, tropical waters will become more abundant and will expand their range.
  • Coral reefs will be exposed to (and are already threatened by) new diseases.
  • For even more consequences of ocean warming, check out the links at the bottom of the post.

To learn more:

Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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