New study: global disappearance of ocean animals

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Our global review of animal loss in the oceans is just out today in Science (or for free here) in a paper authored with Doug McCauley, Steve Palumbi, Jim Estes, Francis Joye, and Bob Warner. As we report, today’s oceans remain vastly more wild places than land. You can take a couple turns off of Hollywood Boulevard, don snorkel gear, and swim among three-hundred-pound giant sea bass and see families of grey whales – all of this within sight of the skyscrapers of Los Angeles. Yet, at the same time the majority of large tunas and sharks are gone, cod stocks have collapsed, and whales are just now climbing back from near extinction. We find that the same patterns that led to the collapse of wildlife populations on land are now occurring in the sea, but ocean exploitation remains centuries or even millennia behind in the oceans. The next one hundred years promises to present major challenges to the health of marine wildlife.

Pinsky lab contributes to National Climate Assessment

Country_map_w_titleMaybe you saw the front page of the New York Times last Tuesday? It had the image here, and it was highlighting the publication of a new report from the federal government called the National Climate Assessment. Think of it like the IPCC report, but for the U.S., and it represented the work of hundreds if not thousands of scientists synthesizing everything we know about climate and its impact on this country. It’s fantastic to see it get this attention!

We got to see one small corner of this report in the making, since Malin was on the team that wrote the 296 page “technical input” report on Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services. It was a long and deliberate process… it started with conference calls through the fall of 2011, then a meeting with dozens of experts in Palo Alto, CA to flesh out the major pieces of the report. Then writing and revising through the spring of 2012, including a special box on “Climate Impacts on New England Fisheries” that we wrote. From there, a federal committee made up of academic and government scientists synthesized all the technical input reports, plus other materials into a draft National Climate Assessment. That was posted online in January 2013 for 90 days of public comments (more than 4000 received and responded to) and extensive peer review, including from the National Academies.

Mean latitude through time of four fisheries in the Northeast U.S.
Mean latitude through time of four fisheries in the Northeast U.S.

And then… drumroll, the final report came out this May, 2014, all 829 pages of it (don’t be too intimidated, though: the website they put together is beautiful and accessible). Wow, that was a long process. But if it has the power and authority to affect the actions of our federal, state, and local governments, plus change public attitudes and business planning, it’s entirely worth it. Oh, and that box on New England fisheries? Find it here, in the Oceans chapter of the final National Climate Assessment.

Teaching ourselves creativity

Photo by Tim K. Hamilton [flickr] under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Photo by Tim K. Hamilton [flickr] under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Are some people born creative, and others born to be dull? Do we need creativity to solve the grand challenges facing the world today, whether in science or society more broadly? In a paper that just became available online in Conservation Biology (Online Early), we argue emphatically No to the first question, and Yes to the second if we are to provide clean air, clean water, and abundant wildlife for generations to come. Creativity provides the raw material we need to solve some of the toughest conservation challenges, and yet we rarely think about how we can increase our individual and collective creativity. There’s a surprising amount we can do, in fact, from intentionally surrounding ourselves with unfamiliar concepts, to making time for reflection, and embracing risk responsibly. Once you’ve read the article… get outside and take a walk to let it sink in!

Overfished species have lower genetic diversity

Photo by Winky (Flickr)
Photo by Winky (Flickr)

Genetic diversity is the raw material for evolution, and it allows species to adapt to changing environmental conditions. But can fisheries cause species to lose genetic diversity? In our meta-analysis just out this week in Molecular Ecology (OnlineEarly), we find strong evidence that the answer is yes. Previously, studies on individual populations have had somewhat ambiguous results: some studies found an effect, others did not. Our finding provides more evidence that the evolutionary impacts of overharvest are important for fisheries management, and may explain why some heavily overfished populations (e.g., Newfoundland cod) have had such a hard time recovering.

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 (http://www.flickr.com/people/nostri-imago/)
Photo by Cliff on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/people/nostri-imago/)

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.

New insights into larval dispersal

Map of predicted population openness on Ragged Island, Bahamas.
Map of predicted population openness on Ragged Island, Bahamas.
Larvae disperse across patchy seascapes, and yet we typically assume that those seascapes are uniform. In a new paper in Ecological Applications, Malin and co-authors tease apart the consequences of this seemingly simple fact: Pinsky et al. 2012 Open and closed seascapes: Where does habitat patchiness create populations with high fractions of self-recruitment? As the title suggests, isolated habitat patches can have high self-recruitment, even without unusually short dispersal distances.