11 January 2012


Big Sur coast, California. Credit: Calilover via Wikimedia Commons.
A new paper in PLoS ONE finds that marine life in the coastal waters of Northern California may be among the most vulnerable to warming in the North Pacific.

This on top of evidence the Northeast Pacific may be more vulnerable to warming than the Northwest Pacific.

And this on top of earlier evidence the North Pacific is warming 2 to 3 times faster than the South Pacific.

Temperate North Pacific realm, and the 16 MEOW ecoregions included in this paper. Credit: Meredith C. Payne, et al. PLOS. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0030105

The researchers assembled a picture of monthly sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over 29 years for waters within 20 km/12 miles of shore for 16 North Pacific ecoregions (map). 

All their data are courtesy of satellite-borne Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer instruments.

Cape Promontory, Aleutian Islands, Alaska. Credit: USFWS via Wikimedia Commons.
Their results suggest the flora and fauna of the Aleutian ecoregion will also be highly susceptible to rising SSTs. 

Why? Because the two areas are already adapted to low variation in SSTs... with the least yearly variation found off California, and the least monthly off the Aleutians. 

From the paper:

[I]t is possible to speculate which ecoregions might be most susceptible to temperature increases, assuming that, in general, organisms living in areas with smaller temperature variations would be more susceptible to temperature increases.

Kelp, California. Credit: NOAA via Flickr.
They conclude:

This speculation needs to be evaluated both by comparing the actual temperature ranges of organisms from field surveys and by evaluating temperature tolerances with experimental studies. Nonetheless, we suggest that analyses of existing temperature regimes can provide insights into what organisms and regions will be at the greatest risk from this aspect of climate change.

The ☺pen-access paper:

  • Payne MC, Brown CA, Reusser DA, Lee H II (2012) Ecoregional Analysis of Nearshore Sea-Surface Temperature in the North Pacific. PLoS ONE 7(1): e30105. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030105
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