Sticky Fish in a Changing Climate

Left, a winter flounder, a “sticky fish” in its preferred substrate. Right, Atlantic menhaden, “shifty fish”, swim in the water column. PC: Eric Heupel (left) and Brian Gratwicke (right). 

Functionally diverse species are differentially influenced by oceanographic as well as physiographic variables such as bottom substrate, thereby influencing their ability to shift distributions. Here I show that fish species distributions that are more associated with bottom substrate than other dynamic environmental variables have shifted significantly less over the last 30 years than species whose distributions are associated with bottom salinity. Correspondingly, species whose distributions are primarily determined by bottom temperature or ocean salinity have shifted their mean centroid and southern and northern range boundaries significantly more than species whose distributions are determined by substrate or depth. The influence of oceanographic versus static variables differs by species functional group, as benthic species distributions are more associated with substrate and they have shifted significantly less than pelagic species whose distributions are primarily associated with ocean temperatures. In conclusion, benthic fish, that are more influenced by substrate, may prove much less likely to shift distributions under future climate change

Related Work

Roberts, S., Boustany, A., Halpin, P. (2020). Substrate-dependent fish have shifted less in distribution under climate change. Nature Communications Biology. DOI:10.1038/s42003-020-01325-1

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