FutureBlue website launched!

We are very excited to announce the launch of our project website: futureblue.net. FutureBlue is an online database and mapping platform designed to make projections of future ocean conditions (species distributions, wind speed, oceanography, etc.) available and useful for the broadest array of stakeholders possible. The project is led by Rutgers, UCONN, and The Nature Conservancy, along with a large interdisciplinary team from academic, governmental, and non-profit organizations, including world experts in climate science, social science, oceanography, marine ecology and management, and online data portal development. FutureBlue originated as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Convergence Accelerator program in 2021, and we are currently in the process of securing funding for Phase II to expand and improve the tool.

New papers highlighting ecoevolutionary adaptation to climate change

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.

New paper: predator-prey interactions are key to predicting fish responses to climate change

Screenshot from a press release on the paper (link below).

A new paper by lab members suggests that predator-prey interactions will complicate species’ ability to track their climate niches poleward in warming oceans. The upshot could be less productive fisheries in a warmer world.

Former postdoc Ed Tekwa, along with James Watson (Oregon State) and Malin Pinsky, developed a spatial food-web model that considers species’ size, metabolism, preferred temperatures, and other factors. Trophic interactions (considerations of “who eats who”) are expected to hamper species’ ability to shift in response to warming temperatures. One interesting prediction of the model is that the trailing edges of top predator ranges are expected to shift slower than the ranges of their smaller prey.

The work was recently published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It was also picked up by the BBC World Service (story at time: 26:30 – 29:50), WHYY, and was the subject of a Rutgers press release.

FishGlob meets!

After many Zoom meetings, members of the Pinsky Lab finally got to meet in person with the FishGlob group!

After multiple years of Zoom meetings, postdoc Alexa Fredston, grad student Zoë Kitchel, and Malin met in person with the FishGlob consortium this past week. The working group, funded by the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB), aims to bring together data from bottom trawl surveys to ask questions about the intersections among climate, fishing, and fish biodiversity at the global scale. Researchers from Colombia, Canada, the US, and France descended upon Montpellier, France to discuss how to effectively unify and standardize datasets, how to identify and understand changes (or not!) in biodiversity across ecosystems through time, and how to most effectively share data and results with a wide audience. Malin shared details about the future of Ocean Adapt, which currently allows users to see visual representations of bottom trawl data for the US and Canada. Alexa showed that marine heatwaves do not seem to have as large of an impact on biomass or community structure as we anticipated. Zoë revealed how both fishing pressure and temperature shape patterns in spatial beta-diversity of fish communities. Between meetings, the team found time for some delicious food and a group trip to the seaside fishing city of Sète where they dipped toes in the Mediterranean Sea, took a stroll along the fishing docks, and enjoyed some local oysters and sea urchins for lunch!

Lab members attend FishGlob: a worldwide assessment from scientific trawl surveys

This past week Alexa Fredston (Postdoctoral Researcher), Zoë Kitchel (Ph.D. Candidate), and Malin met with a group of international researchers as a part of the FishGlob project hosted by the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity based in Montpelier, France. The team, Zooming in from Brazil, Seattle, Connecticut, Nova Scotia, France, Vancouver, and beyond is working to better understand changes in species distributions and biodiversity in the ocean by collecting and combining over 70 bottom trawl surveys from across the world.

Alexa presented on a project examining the impacts of marine heat waves on fish biomass in North America and Europe. She has found that substantial decreases in biomass are only associated with the most intense heatwaves. Zoë presented on a project testing for spatial homogenization of fish communities across a diverse array of trawl surveys. While some regions are experiencing homogenization, likely a result of anthropogenic impacts on the ocean, a number of regions are experiencing differentiation, or no directional change in community composition over time.

This exciting collaboration will allow us to better understand range shift dynamics, especially of species crossing international borders and better shape strategies to manage these cross boundary species and future fish communities.

McLean et al. study on shifts in thermal affinity of marine communities is available in the November 8 issue of Current Biology.

Maps showing the rate of change in SST and CTI along with differences in the strength of the underlying processes. A and B: Rate of change in SST (A) and CTI (B) across the 558 grid cells for the period 1990– 2015. C and D: Differences in the strength of tropicalization and deborealization in grid cells where CTI increased (C), and differences in the strength of borealization and detropicalization in grid cells where CTI decreased (D).

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.

Read full article here

Thermal affinities and temperature gradients explain how warming changes ocean community composition: Burrows et al. 2019, Nature Climate Change

Figure 1, c-f (Burrows et al. 2019) Thermal characteristics in simulated pools of species varying in thermal diversity (high: c and d; low: e and f) and species’ thermal ranges [STR] (narrow: c and e; wide: d and f), showing subsets forming communities at a mean annual sea temperature of 15 °C.

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.

Check out press coverage of the article below:

Communities respond within a year to temperature variation

Map of survey area with sub-regions colored by magnitude of long-term change in CTI in spring.

Patrick’s paper from his MS is now online early at Ecography! He studied temporal change in community composition across the Northeast US continental shelf and found that changes through time could be explained by species associations with bottom temperature. Measured as the Community Temperature Index (CTI), composition changed by about one third of a degree (°C) for every 1 °C increase in bottom temperature on average. Species have non-linear responses to changes in temperature, however, and these nonlinearities scaled up to a nonlinear relationship between composition and temperature.

Six presentations at ESA and AFS!

Lots of great presentations this month:

  • Jennifer presented 25 years of changes in population genetic patterns of summer flounder at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) meeting in Portland, OR
  • Sarah presented on genomic evidence for evolutionary rescue in little brown bats hit by white nose syndrome, also at ESA
  • Malin gave three talks: how ecology can help meet the UN sustainable development goals, how to teach about climate change (with Rebecca Jordan), and how climate change impacts in the ocean are different than those on land (all at ESA)
  • Becca talked about changing predator-prey interactions as a result of warming in the Northeast US at the American Fisheries Society (AFS) meeting in Tampa, FL
  • Jim presented a detailed projection of marine animal distributions in North America over the coming century (AFS)
  • Allison presented some of her Ph.D. work on eco-evolutionary dynamics in salmon (AFS)