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Predicted habitat shifts of Pacific top predators in a changing climate


To manage marine ecosystems proactively, it is important to identify species at risk and habitats critical for conservation. Climate change scenarios have predicted an average sea surface temperature (SST) rise of 1–6 °C by 2100 (refs 1, 2), which could affect the distribution and habitat of many marine species. Here we examine top predator distribution and diversity in the light of climate change using a database of 4,300 electronic tags deployed on 23 marine species from the Tagging of Pacific Predators project, and output from a global climate model to 2100. On the basis of models of observed species distribution as a function of SST, chlorophyll a and bathymetry, we project changes in species-specific core habitat and basin-scale patterns of biodiversity. We predict up to a 35% change in core habitat for some species, significant differences in rates and patterns of habitat change across guilds, and a substantial northward displacement of biodiversity across the North Pacific. For already stressed species, increased migration times and loss of pelagic habitat could exacerbate population declines or inhibit recovery. The impending effects of climate change stress the urgency of adaptively managing ecosystems facing multiple threats.

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Figure 1: Density of top predators within the eastern North Pacific.
Figure 2: Modelled SST and chlorophyll-a values and predicted changes.
Figure 3: Modelled species richness values and predicted changes.
Figure 4: Predicted changes in top predator core habitat by guild.


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This manuscript is the culmination of a cross-project synthesis between TOPP and the Center for Ocean Solutions’ Climate and Predators working group. Financial support for this work was provided by the Sloan Foundation’s Census of Marine Life programme, the NF-UBC Nereus programme, the National Research Council and Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions. TOPP research was funded by the A. P. Sloan, David and Lucille Packard, and Gordon and Betty Moore foundations. Electronic tagging and tracking as part of TOPP was also supported by the Office of Naval Research, NOAA, the E&P Sound and Marine Life JIP under contract from the OGP, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. We thank the TOPP scientific teams and all those who supported animal tagging efforts, particularly our colleagues at IATTC for help with yellowfin tunas, OSU for cetacean tracks, and Grupo Tortuguero and NOAA Southwest Fisheries for turtle and shark research. We thank collaborating TOPP partners and working group leaders for their efforts coordinating, permitting and conducting tagging research during the Census of Marine Life programme. We thank the data management team of TOPP including A. Swithenbank, J. Ganong and M. Castleton in contributing to TOPP data assembly. All animal research was conducted in accordance with appropriate permits (for example, Leatherback turtle Endangered Species Act permit nos. 1159, 1227 and 1596) and IACUC protocols from Stanford University and the University of California. Pacific bluefin tuna work was conducted in Mexican waters with the permission and permits provided by the Mexican Government.

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This climate modelling study was initiated by E.L.H., S.J.B., S.J.J. and R.R.R. The TOPP project was designed and data collection was coordinated by B.A.B., D.P.C. and S.J.B. Tracking data for this project were compiled by S.J.J. and I.D.J., and climate model data were compiled by R.R.R. and J.P.D. Oceanographic data were compiled by E.L.H., S.J.B. and D.G.F. Analyses were conducted by E.L.H., S.J.J., S.J.B. and R.R.R. Figures were created by E.L.H., S.J.B., D.G.F. and S.J.J. The manuscript was written by E.L.H. and edited by S.J.J., R.R.R., S.J.B., D.G.F., I.D.J., S.A.S., L.B.C., J.P.D., D.P.C. and B.A.B.

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Correspondence to Elliott L. Hazen.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Hazen, E., Jorgensen, S., Rykaczewski, R. et al. Predicted habitat shifts of Pacific top predators in a changing climate. Nature Clim Change 3, 234–238 (2013).

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