Identification of global marine hotspots: sentinels for change and vanguards for adaptation action

Abstract

Major changes consistent with the fingerprint of global warming have been reported for nearly every ecosystem on earth. Recently, studies have moved beyond correlation-based inference to demonstrate mechanistic links between warming and biological responses, particularly in regions experiencing rapid change. However, the assessment of climate change impacts and development of adaptation options that humans can undertake are at the earliest stages, particularly for marine systems. Here, we use trends in ocean temperature to characterize regions that can act as natural laboratories or focal points for early learning. These discrete marine ‘hotspots’, where ocean warming is fastest, were identified based on 50 years of historical sea surface temperature data. Persistence of these hotspots into the future was evaluated using global climate models. This analysis provides insights and a starting point for scientists aiming to identify key regions of concern with regard to ocean warming, and illustrates a potential approach for considering additional physical drivers of change such as ocean pH or oxygenation. We found that some hotspot regions were of particular concern due to other non-climate stressors. For instance, many of the marine hotspots occur where human dependence on marine resources is greatest, such as south-east Asia and western Africa, and are therefore of critical consideration in the context of food security. Intensive study and development of comprehensive inter-disciplinary networks based on the hotspot regions identified here will allow earliest testing of management and adaptation pathways, facilitating rapid global learning and implementation of adaptation options to cope with future change.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Actions, referred to as the process of “adaptation” (e.g. Adger et al. 2005) can be taken to reduce exposure or sensitivity to climate change, or increase adaptive capacity (Stafford-Smith et al. 2011).

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported in part by the Australian Marine Adaptation Network, the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research. Discussion with G. Meyers, P. McIntosh, J. Risbey, P. Oke and M. Pook were valuable in developing the qualitative analysis presented here. GCM projections were downloaded from the IPCC data hosted by PCMDI and processed at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research. Review by S. Condie, S. Frusher, S. Jennings and A. Bates improved the clarity of the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gretta T. Pecl.

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Hobday, A.J., Pecl, G.T. Identification of global marine hotspots: sentinels for change and vanguards for adaptation action. Rev Fish Biol Fisheries 24, 415–425 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-013-9326-6

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Keywords

  • Climate change impacts
  • Fisheries adaptation
  • Food security
  • Global collaboration
  • International cooperation
  • Ocean warming