Monday, 29 September 2014

Warming Atlantic waters could see tropical species further north

Invasive tropical species such as the lionfish could be expanding into new areas due to warming water temperatures. This is bad news for Atlantic reefs, as lionfish (native to the Indo-Pacific) have been found to reduce coral cover on coral reefs.

Scientists from National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and University of North Carolina have analysed the bottom water temperature on the North Carolina continental shelf, and found that the fish in deeper, warmer water were mainly tropical, dominated by lionfish in depths of 122 to 150 feet. They found that tropical species that previously hadn’t been found in certain areas looked at in the study had since expanded into these areas. This hadn’t been possible previously, as water temperatures had been too cool.

Paul Whitfield, research ecologist at NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) and lead author of the study, explains, “Globally, fish communities are becoming more tropical as a result of warming temperatures, as fish move to follow their optimal temperature range.

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