Thermal affinities and temperature gradients explain how warming changes ocean community composition: Burrows et al. 2019, Nature Climate Change

Figure 1, c-f (Burrows et al. 2019) Thermal characteristics in simulated pools of species varying in thermal diversity (high: c and d; low: e and f) and species’ thermal ranges [STR] (narrow: c and e; wide: d and f), showing subsets forming communities at a mean annual sea temperature of 15 °C.

A new paper published in Nature Climate Change by Dr. Michael Burrows et al., with contributions from Dr. Ryan Batt (former Pinsky Lab postdoc) and Dr. Malin Pinsky, used 29 years of fish and plankton survey data to assess how warming is changing marine communities’ composition and structure. They found that “warm-water species are rapidly increasing and cold-water species are decreasing” as ocean waters warm. Informed by species’ incidence, and changes in sea surface temperature (SST), the team created measures of species’ thermal affinities, community composition, and other summary metrics. They used these to measure community-level change in thermal affinity and composition.

Regions with relatively stable temperatures (e.g. the Northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico) showed little change in structure, while areas that warmed (e.g. the North Atlantic) shifted strongly towards warm-water species dominance. They also found that communities whose species pools had diverse thermal affinities and a narrower range of thermal tolerance showed greater sensitivity to change.

Next, they found that communities in regions with strong temperature depth gradients changed less than expected. In these regions, rather than moving horizontally through the water, species can instead move deeper to maintain their preferred temperature.

They concluded that this evidence strongly supports temperature as a fundamental driver of change in marine systems, and that metrics based on species’ thermal affinities are useful tools to predict and provide prognoses for community dominance shifts.

Check out press coverage of the article below:

Climate Change Threatens Commercial Fishers From Maine to North Carolina – Rogers et al. article in Nature Climate Change

Lobster boats anchored off Cutler, Maine.
Photo: Malin Pinsky/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

Drs. Lauren Rogers, Robert Griffin, Talia Young, Emma Fuller, Kevin St. Martin, and Malin Pinsky collaborated on a paper which seeks to understand how climate change will likely affect the fishing opportunities for 85 communities in New England and the Mid-Atlantic. The team integrated climatic, ecological and socio-economic data to identify where strategies for adapting to the ecological impacts of climate change will be most needed. They used 13 global climate models to project how ocean temperatures are likely to change, then examined ocean temperatures and types of bottom habitat to determine where important commercial fisheries species are likely to move. They also looked at whether the species caught by fishing communities are likely to become more or less abundant in the ocean regions where they typically fish.

Read more about the paper from the news outlets below:

Becca testifies on the state of fisheries in front of U.S. House subcommittee!

Dr. Becca Selden discussed climate change as an emerging issue for fisheries in front of the House Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife (WOW) on May 1, 2019.  The clip of her testimony is here. Her written testimony, and the video of the entire hearing on the State of Fisheries can be found on the WOW website.

Climate Change Hits Sea Creatures Hardest: Malin et al.’s new paper in Nature [edit: and the cover!]

Pinsky et al. 2019 makes the cover of Nature!

Malin and coauthors, Drs. Anna Eikeset, Doug McCauley, Jonathan Payne, and Jennifer Sunday, published a paper on April 24th, 2019 on the vulnerability of marine versus terrestrial ectotherms. While the vulnerability of marine and terrestrial fauna have each been studied in isolation, a direct comparison of marine and terrestrial organisms physiological sensitivity to warming has yet to occur.

The team used species’ thermal safety margin (the difference between the hottest temperature that an organism can safely tolerate, and its hottest hourly body temperature when in the coolest part of their environment) as a tool to directly compare ocean and land dwelling species. This metric approximates the amount of additional warming a species can tolerate. They calculated this metric for 88 marine and 299 terrestrial species, and found that marine species are more likely to live close to their upper thermal limit than terrestrial species. Terrestrial species also have greater access to thermal refugia (cooler places found within their habitat), such as shaded or subterranean areas. Both of these factors make marine organisms more sensitive to warming than their terrestrial counterparts.

Click here to read the full paper (free access here), and here to read the Rutgers press release.

Key figure from Pinsky et al. 2019

Additional Press Coverage:

Postdoc in process-based forecasting of species distributions

A three-year postdoctoral position is available in the Pinsky Lab at Rutgers University to develop process-based models of species distributions and applications to near-term forecasting (1-10 years). The position is ideally suited to researchers with an interest in spatial population dynamics, biogeography, climate, and process-based modeling. The research will focus on marine species for which we have a half-century of distribution and abundance records.

The postdoc will join a network of collaborators across marine science, climate science, and conservation, including partners in the Mid-Atlantic Fisheries Management Council. Extensive opportunities are available to interact with scientists at Rutgers’ Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab; the Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science; and beyond. The postdoc will have the opportunity to mentor graduate and undergraduate students, design and lead research, manage and analyze large datasets, prepare conference presentations and manuscripts, and coordinate a research collaboration. Research in the Pinsky Lab more broadly uses empirical data, mathematical models, and population genomics to study global change in the ocean.
The ideal candidate will be skilled with spatial- and size-structured population models, statistics, and data analysis. Experience with Approximate Bayesian Computation and climate data is a plus. Applicants with evidence of creativity, productivity, strong oral and written communication abilities, and enthusiasm are especially encouraged to apply, particularly those that bring a new perspective, new ideas, or a new skillset to the team. A promising record of publication is highly valued, as is an interest in engaging closely with partners in conservation and management. The successful applicant will be an independent, motivated problem solver who communicates well and enjoys working in a collaborative setting.

**Position details**The postdoc start dates are flexible, though earlier dates are preferred. Salary starts at $54,000 per year and includes health insurance, retirement, tax savings plans, and other benefits. Funding for conferences and a computer are available.  This is a one-year appointment with the expectation that it will be renewed for two more one-year increments (three years total), contingent upon satisfactory performance.

**Application process**Review of applications will begin on March 24, 2019 and will continue on a rolling basis. Interested candidates should submit: 1) a one­-page cover letter that describes their interest in the position, their relevant background, and their preferred start date, 2) a CV, and 3) the names and contact information of three scientists familiar with their work.

Welcome to Jude Kong!

We’re excited to welcome Dr. Jude Kong to the lab! Jude brings a wealth of experience in mathematical modeling and applied math, including for diseases and aquatic ecosystems. He has his PhD from U. Alberta and will be working on process-based models for shifting species distributions. Welcome, Jude!

Reuters in-depth reporting highlights our work

Reuters released the results of a more than year-long investigation into climate change, fish, and fisheries called Ocean Shock that we supported throughout. The data in their visualizations are from OceanAdapt and their summer flounder story builds from our NSF-funded Coastal SEES research with Kevin St. Martin, Bonnie McCay, Eli Fenichel, and Simon Levin. We’re all excited to see Mo Tamman and the rest of the team’s wonderful storytelling and science communication skills brought to bear on this important issue!

Communities respond within a year to temperature variation

Map of survey area with sub-regions colored by magnitude of long-term change in CTI in spring.

Patrick’s paper from his MS is now online early at Ecography! He studied temporal change in community composition across the Northeast US continental shelf and found that changes through time could be explained by species associations with bottom temperature. Measured as the Community Temperature Index (CTI), composition changed by about one third of a degree (°C) for every 1 °C increase in bottom temperature on average. Species have non-linear responses to changes in temperature, however, and these nonlinearities scaled up to a nonlinear relationship between composition and temperature.

Science Policy Forum: climate change may spark global fish conflict

Our paper in Science out today, “Preparing ocean governance for species on the move” is available here or in Spanish here.

News coverage: