IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB) participates in an international research which emphasizes that climate change forwards spring two days each decade

The study is published in the prestigious scientific journal Science, and has been elaborated by an international experts group, including Dr. Carlos Duarte, researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB)The researchers have calculated for the first time the speed of the global climate change. The data shows, among other things, both on land and at sea, spring is two days ahead every ten years, and that species are moving “continuously” and use another techniques to readapt

An investigation which involved scientists from around the world has measured the rate of global climate change and how these changes affect the distribution range of species and the arrival of the seasons.

A study elaborated by an international team of researchers with participation of Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) researchers calculates globally the climate change speed for the first time, a factor that determines the distribution range of species. The study, published in the scientific journal Science, indicates that the thermal regimes, marked by the way temperatures are distributed in a certain area, have moved to higher latitudes at an average speed of 27 kilometers per decade.

“This analysis sets the rate at which climate change is setting the pace of changes in the distribution of species”, said Carlos Duarte, researcher at IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), one of the authors of the article, which also confirms that the thermal signal marking the beginning of spring is advancing in both continents and oceans, in about two days every ten years.

Changes in the distribution

Scientists have measured the temperature changes from the analysis of global surface temperatures over the past 50 years. The article equates the severity of the impact of global warming on marine and terrestrial biodiversity in similar latitudes, especially on the Equator. Although the oceans have experienced over the last decades a minor warming, marine plants and animals need to move as fast as on the ground to adapt to the ecosystem that better supports them.

Greenhouse gases have warmed terrestrial ecosystems about 1°C since 1960. This warming has occurred three times faster on land than in the ocean, a process that has forced populations to adapt or change their distribution continuously to maintain the same temperature regime. In addition to travel, the species used other techniques such as altering their phenology, ie the time of breeding or egg laying. So far the major evidence for these changes was in the well-studied terrestrial ecosystems.

Scientists have drawn the maps of all these changes and found that, in the ocean, the areas where the species are most affected by these impacts are also the richest in biodiversity. The biggest impact will be around the Equator, where there are hot spots of marine biodiversity and the threats will be high, mainly because the rate of climate change in these areas exceeds 200 kilometers per decade.

To adapt or to be carried away

For Johnna Holding, researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies, a joint center of CSIC and the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), what characterizes the way of moving in the oceans is the lack of continuity: “The Arctic species do not have coldest places to migrate. Some, like the Mediterranean species cannot migrate north because the sea is closed for Europe”, she explains.

“We assume that populations simply need to move to escape climate change, but our study shows that in the ocean escaping routes are more complex and sometimes non-existent”, says the coordinator of the study, Mike Burrows, from the Scottish Association of Marine Science.

“We have observed that in the oceans the only options for marine life are to adapt or to let themselves be carried away with the warm currents”, says the scientist of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia) Elvira Poloczanska. “When the rate of climate change exceeds the rate of dispersal of organisms, or when there are barriers to the dispersal, the species can only adapt or become extinct”, explains Carlos Duarte.

This study is part of an international program to evaluate the impacts of the climate change on marine ecosystems. It is funded by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, from the National Science Foundation, and the University of California, at Santa Barbara (USA).



Michael T. Burrows, David S. Schoeman, Lauren B. Buckley, Pippa Moore, Elvira S. Poloczanska, Keith M. Brander, Chris Brown, John F. Bruno, Carlos M. Duarte, Benjamin S. Halpern, Johnna Holding, Carrie V. Kappel, Wolfgang Kiessling, Mary I. O’Connor, John M. Pandolfi, Camille Parmesan, Franklin B. Schwing, William J. Sydeman y Anthony J. Richardson. «The Pace of Shifting Climate in Marine and Terrestrial Ecosystems». Science. 10.1126/science.1210288.



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