Climate change impacts a lot of things on land, but the impacts in waters – particularly tropical waters – could perhaps be the most damaging, of all of the ill-effects felt by the warming of the globe. A recent study predicts that by 2050, if the planet continues on the warming trend that it’s currently been on, a large number of fish will disappear entirely from the tropics by that year.
The research which was conducted at the University of British Columbia, in Canada, evaluated the scenarios around climate change in water. That meant evaluating the temperature change in water and how it impacts the creatures that call those tropical waters home. The team evaluated two scenarios, which were the varying levels of climate change that could occur.
First, the team evaluated minimal climate change. Which meant the tropical waters only increasing in temperature by 1 degree Celsius by 2100. That would correlate to fish moving nine miles per decade, relocating them minimally compared to extreme trends.
Second, the team evaluated the “worst case scenario” in terms of heating up the ocean, and evaluated how much movement would occur with oceans heating up a steamy 3 degrees Celsius. The findings were that the fish that lived in these tropical regions would move as much as 16 miles a year away from their current location.
Now, to put that in the context a little bit means taking that far beyond migration patterns, or where these fish are going to find food. We’re talking about relocation of home and habitat by as much as 16 miles per year. Essentially, this could create a scenario where fish are moving hundreds of miles in just as many years.
However, as fish move to the Arctic it provides a new set of challenges. Current fisheries are likely to be put out of business if the fish completely move, of course. But, most specifically this will have an impact on fish that are located already in these Arctic regions. For example, this will spur competition for food and living space that otherwise would not have been felt if the waters were not consistently heating up – causing this widespread, mass, migration.
The researchers urged that right now it’s not known whether invasive species will interact negatively or positively with new ecosystems, and species that are natural to the Arctic regions – but regardless, the mass movement of fish is something that is definitely going to require further research.