Effects Of Ocean Temperature On Marine Life

Scientists have been tracking marine life to see how climate change affects their movement. Scientists base their estimates using “climate velocity” which is the direction and speed that changes like weather and temperature move. The data scientists used seems important. It wasn’t like scientists are down there counting fish noses. For example scientists used forty three years of data following three hundred sixty species tracking the movement of one hundred twenty eight million animals in all including animals commercially hunted like cod and lobster.

At first the researchers thought that broad, global conditions in general would explain why the fish populations were moving. While tracking temperatures did explain some movement, it wasn’t perfect. The movement of marine life and temperatures of the regions were not matching up. Seventy percent of animal movement in depth correlated with regional ocean temperature and seventy four percent of movement in latitude correlated with regional ocean temperature, but what about the other thirty percent and twenty six percent? As expected, some species were traveling north to colder regions. Counter intuitively others were going south to warmer regions. Also many animals in different regions move at different rates. Clearly, the underlying factors are more complicated.

One scientist said that they needed to narrow things down and look at the details of smaller areas. Marine life can sense the slightest differences in their environments. For example, various factors in small areas like wind and sunlight. If certain species are in fact reacting to small scale weather changes, their movements might look random at a global scale using only the climate velocity. Basically there was not a problem with the global scale model. There are just more factors at work. Scientists just needed to account for temperature differences in small areas. Researchers obtained data from 1968 to 2011 from fishery research centers and government panels. These surveys recorded bottom and surface temperatures along with the complete population of animals in nine areas. This new information made the global scale model of animal movement a lot more specific and it made a lot more sense because it showed that fish were moving according to the conditions of the small area where they were. So it may look a little random at first but in the end all the fish eventually move to colder water.

Tracking the location of marine life is important because it tells us what sort of effect climate change is having. Another benefit is knowing where fish migrate. If a fish population crosses over into another countries territory it could start arguments. Different countries might claim the right to fish the populations which moved into their areas. Different regulatory and conservation plans may be in place. So, tracking population movements and using climate variables to predict their changes helps us be prepared and plan for potential future conflicts.

The study of climate velocity and the movement of migratory populations relates to what we learned in class because they used the scientific method to track gather and compile data on the movement of the sea life and to then make it into a global chart showing where and why the fish moved.


This entry was written by Ashlyn C. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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