Research claims climate change to bring greater biodiversity to seas

31 Aug 2015

While seeming to be incredibly contradictory to the very concept of climate change, a new Scottish study suggests that our oceans becoming increasingly warmer will increase ocean biodiversity.

Naturally, when we think of climate change affecting our oceans we think that the rise in temperature is likely to mess with the very fine balance that species of marine life have enjoyed for thousands of years.

But now according to the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), the rising temperatures will see seas like our own off the coast of Ireland become home to tropical ocean species.

As a result, this major migration to the north and south poles will leave a major biodiversity gap in the tropics.

Using global climate models, the SAMS team published its findings in Nature Climate Change, showing that even with major efforts to stem the effects of climate change, it might already be too late to change this course.

However, the creator of the study, SAMS marine ecologist Professor Michael Burrows, has said these findings are actually a benefit to the world’s oceans on average.

Will drive out native species

“While some species may evolve and adapt to cope with increasing temperature, the predictions are that many will find cooler climates away from the equator.

“For example, the fish we currently catch in UK waters could potentially be replaced by a new species from the Mediterranean as our own fish, such as cod, move further north.

“The result of that will be an increase in biodiversity across many oceanic regions as the global marine communities reorganise themselves.”

The SAMS team do warn though that the rapid shift in tropical species to foreign oceans will likely crowd out the regions’ native populations and drive them to extinction.

The outcome is likely to be a very challenging ones for ecologists, according to lead author of the study Dr Jorge García Molinos.

“The projected losses and gains of marine biodiversity represents unprecedented challenges to conservation in terms of interactions between climate-migrants and local biota on one hand, and the anticipated development of novel communities and ecological surprises on the other,” he said.

Tropical fish image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic