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.
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.
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)