Challenges in quantifying, interpreting and predicting distributional shifts of marine species

Dr Tara Marshall1, Dr Asta Audzijonyte2, Dr Alan Baudron1, Dr Curtis Champion2, Dr Niall Fallon1, Dr Alan Haynie3, Dr Melissa Haltuch4, Dr Bryony Townhill5, Dr Pieter Daniël van Denderen6, Prof Gretta Pecl2, Dr John Pinnegar5, Prof Malin Pinsky7, Dr Paul Spencer3, Dr Christine Stawitz8, Dr Jim Thorson3

1University Of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, United Kingdom, 2University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 3Alaska Fisheries Science Centre, Seattle, USA, 4Northwest Fisheries Science Centre, Seattle, USA, 5Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft, UK, 6National Institue of Aquatic Resources, Copenhagen, Denmark, 7Rutgers, New Jersey, USA, 8University of Washington, Seattle, USA

Oceans are absorbing approximately 80% of the extra heat and 50% of additional CO2 trapped in the atmosphere and, as a result, have undergone rapid changes in temperature and acidity. The evidence for climate-driven global re-distribution of marine species is growing but often based on the distribution of fish species, many of which are mobile and able to rapidly shift their ranges in response to changing environmental conditions. Standardised surveys are commonly used for inferring spatial distribution, however, there are many examples of species moving beyond the bounds of a survey which then limits our understanding. Additionally, there are often non-climate factors that confound the interpretation of range shifts, e.g. fishing or habitat changes. Quantifying the magnitude and rates of distributional shifts is further complicated by the variety of metrics that are used to describe historical species distributions and then contemporary changes in these distributions. Accurately specifying both the suite of drivers underpinning range shifts and the magnitude of range shifts is essential due to the societal importance of marine species for food, local economies and future projections of commercial fish species. Here, based on a cross-comparison of methodological approaches from a range of globally important marine ecosystems, we make recommendations for appropriate approaches to the collection, analysis and interpretation of data describing the abundance and location of marine species.


Dr. C. Tara Marshall (Lead PI) has over 20 years of experience with the population dynamics and sustainable management of commercial fish species in the Northwest Atlantic, Northeast Atlantic, Barents Sea and Southern Ocean. Her current research focuses on climate impacts on the life history, growth, distribution phenology and resilience of commercial fish species. She supervises a project undertaking a life cycle assessment of the Scottish pelagic fishing industry to develop adaptation and mitigation strategies appropriate for the industry.

Species on the Move

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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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