Two new papers from the lab discuss how best to understand, and to mitigate, the effects of climate change by applying ecoevolutionary theory.
The first, published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution (doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2022.04.011) proposes that dominant ecoevolutionary processes for coping with climate change differ among terrestrial, freshwater, and marine taxa, but that a unified framework, spanning realms, is needed to fully understand them. The review was authored by Malin and coauthors Lise Comte (Illinois State U.) and Dov Sax (Brown U.).
The second, published in Ecological Applications (doi: 10.1002/eap.2650), investigated the merits of two restoration strategies for corals in a changing ocean: ‘demographic restoration’, in which coral is grown elsewhere and transplanted to a site; and ‘assisted evolution’, in which tolerant genotypes are transplanted. This paper, led by Lukas DeFilippo (NOAA) and coauthored by several current and former Pinsky lab members, used an ecoevolutionary simulation model to tackle the question. The model revealed that realistic levels of ‘demographic restoration’ offered little benefit, while transplanting thermally resistant corals helped, but only if maintained for a century. The study concluded that restoration approaches focused on building genetic variation would likely work better by allowing corals to naturally adapt to warming temperatures over time.
A new paper in Global Change Biology documents how Tiger Shark migrations have shifted poleward in response to 40 years of ocean warming. Notably, this has left the species more exposed to commercial fishing as its expanded range is largely outside of a protected area for the species. It may also increase the rate of negative encounters between sharks and human beachgoers. The work is the result of a collaboration between researchers at U. Miami, Mississippi State, NOAA, the Pinsky Lab at Rutgers University, and others. Read the full paper here and watch a short video on it here.
Matthew McLean collaborated with nine other researchers across Europe and North America, including Malin Pinsky, to coauthor this study on community change in marine environments. Their report appears in the November 8 issue of Current Biology. Although past studies have documented extensive shifts in community temperature index (CTI), this study uniquely decomposes CTI into four underlying processes at a multi-continental scale (tropicalization—increasing abundance of warm-affinity species; deborealization—decreasing abundance of cold-affinity speciesd; borealization—increasing abundance of cold-affinity species; detropicalization—decreasing abundance of warm-affinity species). Using long-term monitoring of marine fishes across the Northern Hemisphere, McLean et al. show that one-third of increases in mean thermal affinity were primarily due to decreases in cold-affinity species. Cold-affinity decreases were stronger closer to human population centers; warm-affinity increases were stronger in warmer areas. These findings will help in anticipating future changes in biodiversity under climate change and implementing adapted management strategies.
René Clark (Ph.D. candidate) and co-authors from the Pinsky Lab, Montclair State University, Columbia University, UCLA, Shiga University (Japan), and Visayas State University (Philippines) published a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B investigating the relationship between selection, gene flow and genetic drift across the species range of Amphiprion clarkii (the yellowtail clownfish). Using RNAseq data from populations near the range center (Indonesia & the Philippines) and the northern range margin (Japan), they found signs of local adaptation to cold temperatures at the range edge, despite strong genetic drift and gene flow from lower latitudes. Many of the targets of selection were found in genes involved in acclimation to cold stress, including protein turnover, metabolism, cell structure, and cell death, and may point to an important link between plastic and evolutionary responses involved in thermal adaptation.
Pinsky Lab PhD candidate, Zoë Kitchel, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agent, Doug Zemeckis, authored a bulletin in Rutgers’ Cooperative Extension Bulletin on the impacts of climate change on New Jersey’s marine fisheries. The bulletin breaks down this issue for a general audience and packs the information into ~3 pages. With a quick read, you will become acquainted with climate change, its causes, effects on the ocean, and its impacts on marine life and fisheries.
Zoë Kitchel, PhD Candidate, led a group of Pinsky Lab members (Jeewantha Bandara, Jaelyn Bos, René Clark, Dan Forrest, and Malin Pinsky) in reviewing Ocean Recovery: a Sustainable Future for Global Fisheries? by Ray and Ulrike Hilborn, available online early in Fisheries. The review mentions that the book serves as a needed contrast to the many doom-and-gloom stories and headlines of impending fisheries collapse by highlighting where fisheries are working well, but doesn’t fully expound the challenges to achieving and maintaining sustainable fisheries (e.g., climate change).
Former Pinsky Lab Post-doc, Dr. Sarah Gignoux-Wolfsohn led a study in Molecular Ecologywhich uncovered the genetic differences between bats killed by white-nose syndrome and bats that survived. She was supported by a team of co-authors from Rutgers (Dr. Malin Pinsky, Dr. Kathleen Kerwin, and Dr. Brooke Maslo), the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, the NJ Department of Enviornmental Protection, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, and the University of Tennessee. Their results suggest that survivors pass on traits for resistance to the fungal disease causing rapid evolution in exposed bat populations.
White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in North America since 2006, following its introduction from Europe. The syndrome, caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans, is arguably the most catastrophic wildlife disease in history. It has led to unprecedented declines in many North American bat species, including the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus).
“The deployment of vaccines or treatments for the fungus may be most needed in populations with few disease-resistant individuals,” said Gignoux-Wolfsohn, who led the study – published in the journal Molecular Ecology – while at Rutgers. “Our study also has implications for other diseases that cause mass mortality. While rapid evolution in response to these diseases is often difficult to detect, our study suggests it may be more common than previously thought.”
The team sequenced bat genomes from three hibernating colonies in abandoned mines in New York, New Jersey and Vermont to determine whether little brown bats evolved as a result of the disease. They compared the genomes of bats killed by white-nose syndrome to survivors in recovering populations to identify genetic differences that may be responsible for survival.
The bats’ evolution appears to have particularly affected genes associated with weight gain before hibernation and behavior during hibernation. Rapid evolution may have allowed the remaining bats to keep hibernating and survive infection that killed off millions of other bats.
“Evolution is often thought of as a process that happened long ago,” Gignoux-Wolfsohn said. “We have found that it has also been happening right in our backyards and barns over the last decade.”
This group is now conducting a similar study in Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis). While also affected by white-nose syndrome, this species has experienced lesser declines than little brown bats.
Conservation of fish and other marine life migrating from warming ocean waters will be more effective and also protect commercial fisheries if plans are made now to cope with climate change, according to a study Malin led in the journal Science Advances in collaboration with Lauren Rogers (Alaska Fisheries Science Center), former postdoc Jim Morley (now East Carolina University), and Thomas Frölicher (University of Bern).
The project focused on costs and benefits of planning ahead for the impacts of climate change on marine species distributions. We simulated the ocean planning process in the United States and Canada for conservation zones, fishing zones and wind and wave energy development zones. We then looked at nearly 12,000 different projections for where 736 species around North America will move during the rest of this century. We also looked at potential tradeoffs between meeting conservation and sustainable fishing goals now versus in 80 years.
We were worried that planning ahead would require setting aside a lot more of the ocean for conservation or for fishing, but we found that was not the case. Instead, fishing and conservation areas can be set up like hopscotch boxes so fish and other animals can shift from one box into another as they respond to climate change. We found that simple changes to ocean plans can make them much more robust to future changes. In other words, planning ahead can help society avoid conflicts.
Take home message: while climate change will severely disrupt many human activities and complete climate-proofing is impossible, proactively planning for long-term ocean change across a wide range of sectors is likely to provide substantial benefits.
Ph.D. Candidate, Katrina Catalano, and several Pinsky Lab co-authors published a paper in Molecular Ecology exploring the larval dispersal of a coral reef fish, the yellowtail clownfish (Amphiprion clarkii). They processed genetic samples from these fish along 30 km of coastline consisting of 19 reef patches in seven years (2012–2018) and monsoon seasons to determine dispersal patterns. They found that the distance of dispersal of each fish subpopulation in their study varied significantly among years and seasons, but not in direction of dispersal (northward, southward, or self-recruiting). The amount of dispersal variation observed in this study is comparable to variation among species, indicating that interannual and seasonal variation likely play a significant role in determining metapopulation dynamics.
Dr. Jennifer Hoey successfully defended her PhD dissertation, “Adaptation and evolutionary potential in light of anthropogenic stressors in the ocean” on May 11th, 2020! It was by videoconference, with audience members calling in from literally all over the world. Jennifer’s research on evolutionary patterns in summer flounder has already been published in two papers, Hoey et al. 2018 Evolutionary Applications and Hoey et al. 2020 Molecular Ecology, with a third on the way. Jennifer has also done incredible science outreach work as part of the Science Partnership Committee within the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI). She has become a vital part of not only our lab, but the entire Rutgers Ecology & Evolution community through her work with the graduate program, outdoor activities, dining, art and more. She will be sorely missed as she moves on to a postdoc at UC Santa Cruz. The biggest congratulations and thank you to Jennifer on behalf of the entire Pinsky lab and DEENR!