Ocean study on disappearing species due to warmer waters not surprising

Being a modest man, marine expert Kevin Flannery wouldn’t claim to be among the first people to notice the effects of climate change.

But, as far back as the early 1980s, he was identifying strange and often exotic fish caught off our south-west coast by fishermen from his native Dingle, Co Kerry, and West Cork. These creatures of the deep were coming from waters off Spain, Portugal, Africa, the Azores and the Gulf of Mexico.

Accustomed to warm water, the selection of sunfish, rays, leatherback turtles and jellyfish, to mention just some species, were coming north because of rising ocean temperatures. In one case, it took four years to identify a deepwater jellyfish. They were also turning up in Devon and Cornwall and, by the 1990s, UK scientists said their arrival was a clear indication of global warming.

A new report now says warming has caused twice as many ocean-dwelling species as land-dwelling species to disappear. The greater vulnerability of sea creatures may significantly impact human communities that rely on fish and shellfish for food and economic activity, according to the study published in the journal, Nature.

The study is the first to compare cold-blooded marine and land species’ sensitivity to warming and their ability to find refuge from the heat while staying in their normal habitats. The authors combed through worldwide research on nearly 400 species from lizards and fish to spiders.

“We find that, globally, marine species are being eliminated from their habitats by warming temperatures twice as often as land species,” said lead author Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University–New Brunswick.

The findings suggest new conservation efforts will be needed if the ocean is going to continue supporting human well-being, nutrition and economic activity.

Sometimes, academic reports state the obvious, like the observation climate change has taken a toll on many of the world’s fisheries, with overfishing magnifying the problem.

Seafood has become an increasingly important source of nourishment as the world population grows, especially in developing countries. More than 56 million people worldwide work in fisheries or survive on fisheries.

Given that a sharp decline in catches has been well flagged for years, the report’s authors say, surprisingly, they are ‘’stunned’’ to find that fisheries around the world have already been affected by ocean warming. That wouldn’t surprise any trawlerman in Castletownbere or Dunmore East.

The report calls for climate change to be taken into account in fisheries management.

More on this topic

Tracing the roots of folk and fairy lore behind everyday plants

Scotland pay penalty as Argentina comeback ends World Cup campaign

England finish top of the group after win over Japan

Wednesday's Evening Round-up: Health support staff strike deferred; Twitter and Facebook summoned to court; Tory leadership race

More in this Section

Large and ambitious collaboration at Midsummer Festival

Mark Ronson: Groove is in the heart

Question of Taste: Olivia O'Leary chooses her favourite poets, music and films

Whatever happened to Duncan James from Blue?


Latest Showbiz

Anna and Jordan share first kiss on Love Island

Taylor Swift on Katy Perry: 'Being pitted against each other added tension to our friendship'

Cecelia Aherne announces she's expecting third child

Julie Andrews to voice character in Shonda Rhimes' new Netflix’s series

More From The Irish Examiner