New paper in Science shows that marine species follow climate velocity

Cod photo by Joachim S. Müller.
Photo by Joachim S. Müller.

As ocean temperatures change, fish that provide food for people around the world are moving into new territories. While it’s been common to talk about broad expectations like species shifting towards the poles as the climate warms, the problem has been that many species are not shifting towards the poles, and even of those species that are, some are shifting quickly and others slowly. In a paper out today in Science, we show that  the trick to more precise forecasts is to follow local temperature changes, expressed as climate velocities.

Photo by Cliff on Flickr (
Photo by Cliff on Flickr (

Climate velocities are the rate and direction that temperatures move across the seascape. The findings suggest that climate velocity will be a powerful tool for forecasting future range shifts and have implications for marine conservation and fisheries management. Transient populations are especially vulnerable to overexploitation.

Press coverage includes BBC Radio, LA Times, CBC, ScienceNow, ClimateWire, the Southern Fried Science blog, and EuropaPress. Princeton also has a blog post.




As one example, lobster in the northeastern United States (above) moved north at a pace of 43 miles per decade. (Video by Leah Lewis and D. Richardson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The human face of climate change

Nature Climate Change ran a feature story on Mike Fogarty and Malin’s earlier paper in Climatic Change Letters. To quote the story: “Adaptation to climate change in fisheries is occurring very rapidly. Research now shows that it is a complex process whose outcomes can both mitigate and exacerbate impacts on fish populations.” How people respond and the coping responses they use are an important part of the story.

Study highlights how fisheries are likely to respond to climate change

Mean latitude of four fisheries in the Northeast U.S.
Mean latitude of four fisheries in the Northeast U.S.
It is increasingly clear that marine fish are shifting and will continue to shift poleward as climates warm. However, what these shifts mean for fisheries has long been less clear. In a new paper in Climatic Change, Mike Fogarty and Malin show how fisheries and the value of their landed catch are also moving poleward (see graph on right for four species in the northeast U.S.). These shifts push some species out of reach for coastal communities, but also provide new opportunities. This kind of information can inform decisions about how to adapt to climate change, but such adaptations take time and have costs. Local knowledge and equipment, for example, are geared to the species that have long been present in the area.