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!
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.
Changes in the total catch of a species do not always correspond to changes in total biomass or changes in the species’ distribution alone. This discrepancy drove Dr. Rebecca Selden, former Pinsky lab post-doc and current Assistant Professor at Wesleyan College, and colleagues to seek a greater understanding of the forces driving both fish stock availability and catch at US West Coast ports in their recently published article.
The team first sought to couple changes in a species’ biomass with the species’ distribution to explain the heterogeneity in stock availability experienced by fisheries across different latitudes. They measured the change in distribution and biomass of five commercial target species (dover sole, thornyheads, sablefish, lingcod, and petrale sole), and found that the timing and magnitude of stock declines and recoveries are not experienced uniformly along the coast when they coincide with shifts in species distributions.
Second, they integrated information on distances travelled by fishers with estimates of availability along the coast to generate port-specific indices of availability. They found that additional factors, like greater vessel mobility and larger areal extent of fish habitat, affect availability, and may work to counteract or augment the effects of changing fish biomass and distribution.
Lastly, they found that higher stock availability was not consistently associated with higher catch per ticket. Because fish landings were not consistently related to stock availability, Selden et al. suggest that social, economic, and regulatory factors likely constrain or facilitate the capacity for fishers to adapt to changes in fish availability.
Drs. Timothy Walsworth, Daniel Schindler, Madhavi Colton, Michael Webster, Stephen Palumbi, Peter Mumby, Timothy Essington, and Malin Pinsky authored a paper exploring the efficacy of various management strategies to protect species in the face of warming ocean temperatures. While previous research addressed where to establish protected areas, nearly all studies overlooked the fact that most species can also evolve in response to climate change, despite growing evidence that rapid evolutionary response can occur. The paper focused in particular on corals.
The team evaluated a range of potential conservation strategies, including protecting: 1) the hottest 2) the coldest and 3) both the hottest and coldest sites at the time of site selection; sites with the 4) highest and 5) lowest abundance at the time of site selection; 6) sites that are evenly spaced across the entire network, and 7) randomly selected sites about the networks. The researchers found that strategies conserving many different kinds of sites would work best (e.g. 6 and 7).
“Rather than conserving just the cold places with corals, we found that the best strategies will conserve a wide diversity of sites,” Malin explained. “Hot reefs are important sources of heat-tolerant corals, while cold sites and those in between are important future refuges and stepping stones for corals as the water heats up.”
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:
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.