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Global change in marine aquaculture production potential under climate change

Nature Ecology & Evolutionvolume 2pages17451750 (2018) | Download Citation


Climate change is an immediate and future threat to food security globally. The consequences for fisheries and agriculture production potential are well studied, yet the possible outcomes for aquaculture (that is, aquatic farming)—one of the fastest growing food sectors on the planet—remain a major gap in scientific understanding. With over one-third of aquaculture produced in marine waters and this proportion increasing, it is critical to anticipate new opportunities and challenges in marine production under climate change. Here, we model and map the effect of warming ocean conditions (Representative Concentration Pathway scenario 8.5) on marine aquaculture production potential over the next century, based on thermal tolerance and growth data of 180 cultured finfish and bivalve species. We find heterogeneous patterns of gains and losses, but an overall greater probability of declines worldwide. Accounting for multiple drivers of species growth, including shifts in temperature, chlorophyll and ocean acidification, reveals potentially greater declines in bivalve aquaculture compared with finfish production. This study addresses a missing component in food security research and sustainable development planning by identifying regions that will face potentially greater climate change challenges and resilience with regards to marine aquaculture in the coming decades. Understanding the scale and magnitude of future increases and reductions in aquaculture potential is critical for designing effective and efficient use and protection of the oceans, and ultimately for feeding the planet sustainably.

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This research was funded by the Zegar Family Foundation through the ‘Anticipating Climate Change Impacts on Ocean Aquaculture’ project.

Author information


  1. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

    • Halley E. Froehlich
    •  & Benjamin S. Halpern
  2. Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

    • Rebecca R. Gentry
    •  & Benjamin S. Halpern
  3. Imperial College London, Ascot, UK

    • Benjamin S. Halpern


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H.E.F., R.R.G. and B.S.H. conceived the initial study. H.E.F. and R.R.G. developed the research and methodology, with critical input and insight from B.S.H. H.E.F. and R.R.G. collected and processed the data. H.E.F. conducted the analyses. All authors interpreted the results and implications. H.E.F. produced the figures. H.E.F. drafted the manuscript with significant input and revisions from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Halley E. Froehlich.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Tables 1–2; Supplementary Figures 1–16

  2. Reporting Summary

  3. Supplementary Data 1

    Probability of decline of suitable area in respective Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of countries/territories for finfish and bivalves for each time step. Time steps correspond to (a) 2010–2030 relative to historic (1985–2005; Δt1), (b) 2030–2050 relative to 2010–2030 (Δt2), (c) 2050–2070 relative to 2030–2050 (Δt3), and (d) 2070–2090 relative to 2050–2070 (Δt4). A ‘na’ in the bivalve column indicates non-suitable condition based on our assumed global modelling constraints (temperature and chlorophyll).

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