A new study aimed at identifying areas of highest conservation priority in the world’s oceans found six “hot spots of marine biodiversity” that are severely impacted by climate change and fishing pressures.
While human activities are known to drive environmental changes that may lead to ecosystem collapse, previous research has not examined the overlap between global species distribution in our oceans and marine areas most at risk from climate change.
Francisco Ramírez and colleagues compiled a database of 2,183 marine species and over three decades worth of information on sea surface temperatures, ocean currents and marine productivity. They also evaluated industrial fishing data from the last 60 years.
The environmental data showed an uneven distribution of changes to Earth’s oceans, with the most striking shifts at the poles and the tropics.
The researchers identified six areas of high biodiversity, including marine areas in temperate and tropical regions of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. While environmental changes have affected ocean temperatures, nutrient availability and currents in these species-rich areas, industrial fishing has also reduced global fish stocks. The analysis of fisheries data showed that harvest pressure will continue and further exacerbate pressure on fish populations in these areas.
Climate and industrial fishing impacts should be considered concurrently for conservation, the authors say, and they call for the international community to conserve biodiversity through fishing policies, similar to the ways in which climate change is being addressed on a global scale.
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