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Ocean currents alter climate change impacts on marine species

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May 24, 2017 Hokkaido University  full article here at ScienceDaily

Ocean currents affect how climate change impacts movements of species to cooler regions. A new study provides novel insight into how species’ distributions change from the interaction between climate change and ocean currents….

They found that species expanded their range faster and kept track of climate better when ocean currents matched the direction of warming. “We were expecting ocean currents to be most influential at the leading ‘cold’ edge of a species’ range, where warming represents an opportunity for the expansion of its range,” comments García Molinos. “In those situations it’s a little bit like a conveyor belt at an airport terminal. If you want to get to your boarding gate and you walk with the belt, you approach the gate faster than if you just stand on it passively. If you take the belt that goes in the opposite direction you will need to walk fast or even run to make progress.”

However, matching ocean currents and warming unexpectedly slowed down range contractions, or the speed of withdrawal at the “warm” edges. “This was somehow a surprise because we were expecting contraction rates to be mainly driven by the rate of warming,” says co-author Prof. Michael T. Burrows. ….”Our study suggests how directional forces such as ocean or air currents can influence the coupling between climate change and biogeographical shifts. Our simple metric can be used to improve predictions of distribution shifts and help explain differences in expansion and contraction rates among species,” concludes García Molinos.

J. García Molinos, M. T. Burrows, E. S. Poloczanska. Ocean currents modify the coupling between climate change and biogeographical shifts. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-01309-y

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