Alternative climate drivers of local species richness, colonization, and extirpation in marine fishes

Ms Zoë Kitchel1, Mr Malin Pinsky1

1Rutgers University, New Brunswick, United States

Changes in climate lead to redistributions of organisms across the globe. Because temperature drives physiological processes such as metabolism and growth, in response to changing temperature organisms adjust location, adapt, or become extinct. In terrestrial systems, geographic barriers, restricted dispersal, and abundant refugia limit the extent to which changes in species’ ranges can match changes in temperature. Marine ecosystems provide fewer obstacles, and therefore serve as natural experiments to examine how changing climate patterns can influence species’ distributions. Here, we assess the associations between ocean temperature and multi-decadal trends in local colonization, extirpation, and species richness in nine marine regions around North America using scientific trawl survey data. We find that magnitude rather than direction of temperature change is useful for explaining change in species richness. Richness is rising in regions experiencing cooling in addition to regions experiencing warming. Additionally, while instances of extirpation are most associated with minimum yearly temperature and seasonality, instances of colonization are most associated with maximum and average yearly temperature. Inconsistent drivers for local colonizations and extirpations can lead to asymmetrical changes in the leading and lagging edges of species distributions. Species traits may further elucidate which climate drivers typically partner with leading and lagging range edges. We predict that these instances of alternative drivers of colonization and extirpation can explain patterns of species range edges on a global scale.


Zoë Kitchel is a graduate student with the Ecology and Evolution Program at Rutgers University where she studies climate change, fisheries, and trait diversity.

Species on the Move

An International Conference Series

The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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