Marine species and climate change: using modelling techniques to investigate effects on species distributions
Townhill, Bryony Lindsey
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Anthropogenic climate change is one of the main challenges affecting the globe, with particular implications for the oceans. Marine climate change research has moved forward rapidly in recent years, and a range of physical model outputs are available that can be used by ecologists to help predict how species might be affected into the future. Policy makers require a level of understanding of how certain species and their ranges might change so that they can respond with sustainable management actions. This thesis aims to make use of a number of modelling techniques to explore implications of past and future conditions for marine species, and to appraise those tools that can be used under differing circumstances. Policy questions are answered relating to changes in the abundance and distribution of marine species. The links between historical climatic conditions and Barents Sea cod abundance are explored using Generalised Additive Models using data collected in the middle of the 20th century. This valuable historical data indicated that cod have temperature preferences and expand and shift their distributions based on environmental conditions. A simpler modelling technique is used to examine how oxygen conditions have changed in recent decades in the North Sea, how they might change in the future, and what implications this has for commercial fish species. The models show that oxygen conditions have improved recently and that they will not decrease to levels that result in large negative effects in the coming century. Species distribution modelling using a combination of global and downscaled model outputs shows that the UK will become more suitable for some non-native and harmful algal species in the 21st century, and less suitable for others. The model outputs contribute to the understanding of climate change effects and development of management tools to ensure the resilience of marine ecosystems into the future.
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Townhill, B.L., Maxwell, D, Engelhard, G.H., Simpson, S.D., Pinnegar, J.K. (2015) Historical Arctic logbooks provide insights into past diets and climatic responses of cod PLoS ONE 10(9): e0135418. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0135418.
Townhill, B.L., Pinnegar, J.K., Righton, D.A., Metcalfe, J.D. (2016) Fisheries, low oxygen and climate change: how much do we really know? Journal of Fish Biology. doi:10.1111/jfb.13203
Townhill, B.L., Pinnegar, J.K., Tinker, J., Jones, M.C., Simpson, S.D., Stebbing, P., Dye, S.R. (accepted) Non-native marine species in north west Europe: developing an approach to assess future spread using regional downscaled climate projections. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems.
PhD in Biological Sciences