Warming Waters: The Effects of Climate Chnage on Shallow Reef Ecosystems

by cscott18 on November 7, 2017 - 4:18pm

Due to many human induced factors, we are beginning to see the climatic changes of global warming. As it warms the water, shallow regions are affected heavily due to a lesser volume and therefore the highly diverse reef ecosystems must slowly adapt to these new conditions. A recent study and article from the University of Tasmania’s Marine Institute illustrates the present distribution of species in shallow waters and the changes they are seeing. They found that predatory fish species have an abundance gradient ranging from high in the tropics to low in colder latitudes and their large invertebrate prey follow this pattern inversely. The results of this study in shallow Australian waters shows that an increase in water temperature is expanding the dispersal range of shallow predatory fish species and having negative effects on invertebrate populations. Lead author, Graham Edgar predicts that effect of climate change on predatory fish ranges will have negative effects on food web and ecosystem dynamics and will therefore disrupt fisheries worldwide. This study ends by suggesting more species monitoring in shallow reef communities to help detect and manage climate-induced changes in reef populations. There is not a concrete solution for this issue because climate change is a globally-induced problem, but monitoring and management can help maintain fisheries and possibly populations for the time being. The intent of this study is to show the effects of global warming and climate change in our oceans and to attempt to raise awareness on the issue.


Since this pattern has only been recorded in Australia and Tasmania, I think this presents a lot of uncertainty in the predicted results. First of all, each species develops a characteristic set of life strategies that are specific to its environment. With a wide variety of trait combinations, it is unreliable to predict that it would have the same effects on other species. Secondly, due to various ocean currents and trade winds, there is some uncertainty claiming that the warm waters would distribute evenly. Staying on this topic, we should consider questions like are only shallow coastal regions affected? Or what depth do the warming effects reach to? The main issue in the economic future is that most tropical countries have a staples economy dependent on the resource base of shallow reef populations. As food webs collapse, they affect all areas of local fisheries due to the diversity of species connections in reefs. It is this diversity in the possible outcomes and the diversity of all the possible causes of global warming, that make substantive policy instruments ineffective. The study suggests to continue further research and monitoring on shallow reef ecosystem to detect climate-induced changes and this is the right path for the future. The next step would be to use informational instruments to educate people on ways to avoid global warming and ways to keep reef ecosystems healthy.





Edgar, G.J., Alexander, T.J., Lefcheck, J.S., Bates, A.E.,  Kininmonth, S.J., Thomson, R.J., Duffy, J.E., Costello, M.J., Stuart-Smith, R.T. 2017. Abundance and local-scale processes contribute to multi-phyla gradients in global marine diversity. Science Advances, 3(10).


University of Tasmania - Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies. 2017. Worldwide change in shallow reef ecosystems predicted as waters warm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 5, 2017 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171018151845.htm


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