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Rising ocean temps reshaping communities of fish, other marine species

By Brooks Hays
Rising ocean temps reshaping communities of fish, other marine species
New research suggests warm-water species are becoming dominant in many parts of the world as ocean temperatures continue to rise. Photo by Norm Diver/Shutterstock

Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Marine ecosystems are being reshaped by rising ocean water temperatures, according to a new study.

For the new research, scientists analyzed millions of records on thousands of species living in 200 different ecological communities. The effort was the largest yet to examine the effects of rising water temperatures on the mix of species living in the ocean.

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The data showed the mix of fish, crustacean and plankton communities are being dramatically altered, and that these changes are likely to have significant impacts of commercial fisheries.

"The changes we're observing ripple throughout local and global economies all the way to our dinner plates," Malin Pinsky, an associate professor marine ecology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, said in a news release. "We found dramatic evidence that changing temperatures are already reshaping communities of ocean organisms."

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Ocean temperatures in some parts of the world remain stable, including the Northeast Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. In such places, species dominance hasn't changed. But elsewhere, like throughout the North Atlantic, warming trends have precipitated the increasing dominance of warm-water species.

Researchers published the results of their analysis on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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"We found that warm-water species are rapidly increasing and cold-water marine species are decreasing as the global temperature rises," said Pinsky, co-author of the new study. "Changes like this are often disrupting our fisheries and ocean food chains."

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According to the study, scientists found evidence that many marine communities have demonstrated a resiliency against climate change, but that more research is needed to better understand how ecosystems will respond to warmer conditions moving forward.

"We're now trying to understand how the changes we see in the ocean compare with those on land and in freshwater ecosystems," said Pinsky.

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