Science Outreach

Species’ thermal affinities inform community responses to warming oceans

Photo © Jeffrey CC

In a letter recently published in Nature Climate Change, Burrows and colleagues describe how the thermal affinities of marine species can be used collectively to inform how the structure of the communities that they occupy may change in response to warming oceans.

Their study was based upon three decades of fish and plankton data, and revealed a tendency for warm-water species to increase in dominance in regions of the world where water temperatures are increasing. The authors also found that temperature-depth gradients influence biodiversity redistribution and shifts in relative species abundance within marine communities. Such gradients allow species to seek cooler temperatures by moving deeper, rather than horizontally.

Collectively, these findings highlight the strong effect that temperature changes have on marine community turnover rates, and provide “a benchmark against which the pace of reorganization of global biodiversity climate can be judged”.

You can read the full study here.

Science Outreach

Towards a sustainable and equitable blue economy

Interest in the economic potential of the world’s oceans (i.e. the ‘blue economy’) is currently higher than ever, however, concerns remain about the health of oceans both now and moving into the future.

In a recent article published in Nature Sustainability, Bennett and colleagues discuss how the rapid, unbridled development of a ‘blue economy’ may impact the marine environment and human wellbeing, particularly in coastal countries and small-island developing states. The authors then outline five priorities that should be considered in developing a sustainable and equitable blue economy, which focus on the need for proactive cooperation and action among civil society, governments and private sectors at both local and international scales.

You can read more about the five priorities here, and the sustainability research being completed in the lead up to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) here.

In Seychelles, diverse groups of experts and stakeholders are already meeting to discuss the developing blue economy. Photo © dronepicr CC


Science Outreach

Rapid reorganization of global biodiversity

Species richness is a simple metric commonly used in Community Ecology to describe the number of species present within an ecosystem or environment. While useful to note in many circumstances, the use of richness measures to monitor ecosystem-level changes over time is often hindered by the inability of such data to record species turnover rates. That is, the frequency at which species become extinct and are replaced.

Tropical marine biomes displayed high rates of species turnover. Photo © USFWS/Jim Maragos CC

In an article published last month in Science, Blowes and colleagues examine “the geography of biodiversity change in marine and terrestrial assemblages“. By considering changes in species richness and composition across more than 50,000 biodiversity time series from 239 studies, the authors were able to show that while assemblage richness values do not change on average around the world, compositional changes within biomes are rapid and prevalent. Furthermore, the extent of this compositional “reorganisation” of species was greater in marine biomes than terrestrial biomes.

By identifying hotspots of biodiversity change, conservation priorities across biomes can be assessed. Appropriate management strategies can then be put in place to ensure that diverse and resilient communities can persist under our changing climate.

You can read more about this study in the Perspective article written by Eriksson and Hillebrand here.

Science Outreach

Marine top predators as climate and ecosystem sentinels

California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) population declines can indicate unobserved changes in prey communities. Photo © Michael L. Baird CC

In a new paper published this month in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Dr Hazen and colleagues highlight the potential for marine top predators (predatory fish, seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals) to act as climate and ecosystem sentinels. They describe Elucidating sentinels, those species that can indicate past or ongoing ecosystem changes that would otherwise be unobserved, and Leading sentinels, the species that can lead indications of future ecosystem change.

The use of these animals in such a way is made possible because of their large, conspicuous nature, their longevity and often high trophic position in food webs, and their ability to travel large distances. The authors discuss the need to consider the spatio-temporal variation present in the diet, movement, morphometrics, reproduction and demography of such sentinel species when collecting data, as an important cue for the scale at which the sentinels can indicate changes in marine ecosystems. Find the full publication here.

The diet of the Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni), identified by Hazen et al. (2019) as a “leading sentinel”, is used to predict sardine and anchovy fisheries landings in the Gulf of California. Photo © Michael L. Baird CC


Science Outreach

Fish-ualizing marine research

Colour palettes based on fish!

Are you a marine scientist looking for a unique way to map your data? Struggling to find a colour scheme that works for you? Look no further!

Fishualize, an R package released earlier this year, allows you to graph your data using colours from your study species! Developed by Nina Schiettekatte, Simon Brandl, and Jordan Casey, novel colour palettes based on any organism can be created, bringing your audience closer than ever to your research subject.

If you want to give it a try, here is the tutorial!

Acanthurus leucosternon
Photo © Elisabeth Morcel CC
An example palette from Fishualize