Global warming threatens marine life in more than 70% of the most biodiverse areas of Earth’s ocean, experts say.
According to researchers from the University of Adelaide, the most vulnerable marine communities contain most of the world’s reef-building coral species, which provide ecosystem services that support the livelihoods of millions of people.
Other vulnerable regions are home to iconic marine megafauna, including manatees.
“Our research shows that places with exceptionally high marine biodiversity are most at risk from future ocean warming, making them particularly vulnerable to 21st century climate change,” said lead author Dr Stuart Brown of the University of Adelaide Institute of the Environment.
“That’s because the species living in these biodiverse regions are generally ill-equipped to respond to large changes in temperature.”
Using a new technique to compare past and future extreme rates of ocean warming, researchers have been able to map global exposure to future climate change and establish the distances plants and animals in vulnerable areas must travel to track conditions. appropriate climatic conditions.
“In many cases, this will require traveling distances beyond the ocean regions in which these species have evolved and to which they are adapted, at travel speeds rarely seen for marine life,” said Dr Brown. .
“By showing that areas of high marine biodiversity are disproportionately exposed to future warming, our results provide important new information for deriving and strengthening conservation actions to safeguard marine biodiversity in the face of climate change.”
University of Adelaide Associate Professor Damien Fordham said that although recent human-induced climate change is known to affect marine life through changes in species distribution and abundance, the spatial pattern of exposure to past and future rapid rates of ocean warming is unclear.
He added: “By showing that areas of high marine biodiversity are disproportionately exposed to future warming, our results provide important new information for deriving and strengthening conservation actions to safeguard marine biodiversity in the face of climate change.
“Actions that build ecological and evolutionary resilience to climate change should be a priority.
“These could include improving fisheries management, assisting the movement of species, and expanding well-managed, climate-smart marine protected areas.”