Climate change, wealth, and a fishy example

IMGP0176With a great set of co-authors, including Eli Fenichel at Yale, we just published a paper in Nature Climate Change showing how to measure the impacts of climate change on wealth. Our previous work, including this, has shown how climate pushes natural resources around. In this new paper, we show that those movements change who gets access to resources, and how those movements affect wealth. As important, or even more important, than the quantity of resources, however, is the quality of a region’s resource management, existing institutions, and fishing regulations. Places with strong resource management stand to gain the most from climate-driven changes in resource distribution.

To make these points, we use a hypothetical example with two fishing ports.

This is one of the initial publications from our NSF Coastal SEES grant examining the impacts of climate change on fish and fisheries.

The paper is getting a bit of press as well:

Come see us at Ocean Sciences!

OSM_2016Nearly the whole lab and many collaborators will be at Ocean Sciences in New Orleans next week talking about our work!



Projecting the future of the ocean

It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, as the saying goes. However, there’s important science to be done trying to reduce those uncertainties for life in the ocean. We have a new paper out today in the ICES Journal of Marine Science to chart that course, from a collaboration with William Cheung and a wonderful group of colleagues in the Nereus program, “Building confidence in projections of the responses of living marine resources to climate change.”Cheungetal2015_Fig2

This figure shows three of the key sources of uncertainty in any projection, using sea surface temperature as an example: the model used to make the projection (blue), the climate change scenario followed (green), and irreducible variability in the model (orange). The graph shows how natural variability dominates over the next couple decades, but the scenario of greenhouse gas emissions is very important by the end of the century.

Breeding like rabbits doesn’t work for fish

Fast-growing fish like these sardines are more sensitive to excessive harvest than other, slower-growing species, contrary to common patterns on land. Photo credit: John Loo (CC BY 2.0).

We have a new paper out in Proceedings B, “Fishing, fast growth and climate variability increase the risk of collapse.” Analyzing data from fisheries around the world, we show that patterns in the ocean are nearly the opposite of those on land. Slow-growing species like lions and tigers may be most at risk of extinction on land, but in the ocean, it’s the “rabbits” that are most sensitive. We find that fast-growing species like flounder and sardines are more than three times more likely to collapse when they experience overfishing than their slower-growing cousins. Populations that experience strong climate variability are also more at risk.

Tim Essington also had a nice paper exploring some of these patterns among small pelagic species earlier this year. Definitely worth a read, plus the following discussion (here and here).

Some of the coverage:

Dive slates become plates

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been in the Philippines for over a week!IMG_2359_sm

Four fifths of the Pinsky Lab is here to conduct a census of clownfish and their host anemones. After two full days of travel by plane, ferry and van, we set to work surveying the coral reefs on the western coast of central Leyte. Surveys are conducted on SCUBA and we work in teams to tag all of the anemones and note the clownfish. Some sites have tons of anemones and others are very sparse with terrible visibility. Each dive is like a 2-3 hour Easter egg hunt and it’s our job to find all of the anemones before we run out of air. Besides a lot of anemones and clownfish, we’ve also seen clownfish eggs, a diverse array of fishes and an uncanny number of sea snakes.

IMG_2341_smWe have hired a boat to take us to our sites, which makes it very convenient for diving. It also means that we spend most of the day on or in the water, including eating our rice and fried chicken lunches off of dive slates and fins! In addition, commuting by boat allows us to admire the spectacular deep valleys and sheer green cliffs of Leyte that are dotted with long ribbon-like waterfalls. Often times, we arrive back to our hostel just as the sun is setting. With a coconut palm lined coastline, it is incredibly picturesque and a beautiful way to round off a long day of diving.

– by Jennifer HoeyIMG_2230_sm_modIMG_2334_sm

We’re in Leyte

Field season #2 on our NSF RAPID grant to study coral reef ecosystem recovery from Typhoon Haiyan in Leyte, Philippines. We’re continuing benthic cover, fish visual surveys, and invertebrate surveys, but our main focus is on clownfish metapopulation dynamics and identifying the origin of recolonizing individuals (using genetic tags as natural “license plates” to identify source locations). Here’s a photo from our first full day of diving, walking down the road on the campus of the Visayas State University with our dive gear in the amazing “pot pot”. From left to right: Gerry Sucano (field assistant extraordinaire), Michelle Stuart, Patrick Flanagan, and Jennifer Hoey. Visayas State University

News from Leyte, Philippines

After a long day of diving in Tinag-an
After a long day of diving in Tinag-an

Pinsky Lab Phillipines is closing down after a great summer season! We (Michelle and field assistant Gerry Sucano) collected 540 clownfish samples and performed fish and coral transects on 600 m of reef off the western coast of Leyte.  While damage from Typhoon Yolanda (known as Typhoon Hayan in the U.S.) is still evident both on land and on the reef, there are still breathtaking stretches of coral habitat that are home to a diverse array of fish and invertebrates. We’ll be coming back here often over the coming years to observe the coral reef recovery, and in particular to understand how the dispersal of baby clownfish contributes to the recovery of their populations.

Sampling clownfish has its humorous moments, and it was especially fun to watch clownfish hide from our field assistant and clownfish wrangler extraordinaire, Gerry.  They would hide behind rocks and peek out at him from around corners. They would zip off to a neighboring anemone, and three or four would get together and watch him, swimming to face each other and then him in what seemed to be an animated conversation about the giant “fish” with bubbles coming out of its mouth.

Michelle at work watching clownfish.
Michelle at work watching clownfish.

The area of the Philippines where we work is a fascinating amalgamation of “primitive” with modern technology.  People live in thatch roofed huts and yet watch episodes of Game of Thrones on tablets. They use modern industrial materials to manufacture “off the grid” solutions, and the natural world is never far away. Even in our air conditioned hotel rooms, part of the wall was made of screen to allow air to move in and out (irony, anyone?). Being in a completely closed space started to feel odd, though the New Jersey winter will surely dispel that notion in due time. Meanwhile, it has been wonderful to enjoy living in this tiny piece of paradise.