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Tropical reefs shifting poleward

By Leonard Ho - Posted Jun 21, 2011 03:00 AM
A recent paper published in the scientific journal 'Geophysical Research Letters' outlines the first large-scale evidence of poleward range expansion of modern corals due to rising ocean temperatures. Japanese scientists analyzed 80 years of national records and found four major coral species categories exhibited northward expansion into temperate waters, some occurring at a rate of 14km (9 miles) per year.
Tropical reefs shifting poleward

Reefs of Okinawa ... on the move? Photo by Klaus Stiefel (Creative Commons)

The abstract for the paper summarizes:

Our results, in combination with recent findings suggesting range expansions of tropical coral‐reef associated organisms, strongly suggest that rapid, fundamental modifications of temperate coastal ecosystems could be in progress.

Formely temperate waters will increasingly serve as refugia for tropical corals and organisms.  The study also concludes that "in regions with poleward current flows (east coast of the United States [Precht and Aronson, 2004], east coast of South America, east coast of Africa and east coast of Australia [Figueira and Booth, 2010]) the speed would be much greater."

Reference: Yamano, H., Sugihara, K. and Nomura, K. 2011. Rapid poleward range expansion of tropical reef corals in response to rising sea surface temperatures. Geophysical Research Letters 38: 10.1029/2010GL046474.

Author: Leonard Ho
Location: Southern California

I'm a passionate aquarist of over 30 years, a coral reef lover, and the blog editor for Advanced Aquarist. While aquarium gadgets interest me, it's really livestock (especially fish), artistry of aquariums, and "method behind the madness" processes that captivate my attention.


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