UWB Crest

Impacts of Southern Ocean warming on marine connectivity


Photos copyright of Dr Mike Meredith, BAS

As a cross-disciplinary project, the intellectual impact of our proposed work would be spread across several different fields of science (e.g. the academic community working within the fields of environmental change, marine biology, biophysical modelling, population biology, ecophysiology, evolutionary biology, fisheries biology and management.

Our work is responsive to explicit calls for integration generated by practitioners in disparate fields: numerical modellers, population geneticists and ecologists.

  1. Contribution to contemporary integrative research initiatives: including the newly emerging field of "eco-devo", which addresses the environmental mediation of developmental mechanisms. Because of its focus on an endemic fish fauna, as well as a region of important biodiversity, this study provides a proof of concept for another emerging discipline, "conservation physiology". Both fields recognise the importance of resolving the causal mechanisms of ecological and biological effects of climate change by linking physiological responses with higher level processes under changing environmental conditions. Our work would help address the urgent need for comprehensive understanding of the regional Scotia Sea ecosystem, required by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Our work produces an integrated database describing developmental rates and recruitment dynamics within the context of environmental change, for which open access is expected to be of value to eco-physiologists, evolutionary and marine biologists. We provide an additional resource to the wider scientific community in our continued effort to promote sample archiving and exchange, as well as joint molecular marker development and sharing.
  2. Contribution to understanding the resilience of marine ecosystems to environmental change: Modern phylogeography examines the effects of fine-scale variation in physical and climatic processes on genetic divergence over space and time. The synthetic outcome of our work would inform potential linkages between biogeographic shifts and climate-change scenarios. Further, outputs will promote a mechanistic understanding of the effects of changes in physiological and physical parameters on marine population dynamics. By quantifying connectivity among subpopulations we will further enhance our limited knowledge of the dynamics of spatial scales driven by larval dispersal.
  3. Fisheries and conservation biologists and marine resource scientists: As a consequence of the knowledge-based directives, a more general positive impact on marine ecosystems can be anticipated. Estimating the impact of elevated temperatures on fish recruitment will inform stock assessment models. The enhancement of population dynamics models will not only prove amenable to testing hypotheses on the extent and causes of structuring, but will importantly also allow forecasts of the likely impact of variable harvesting regimes and environmental change. Moreover, models that have been parameterised with oceanographic and biological ("biocomplexity") information can assist in assessing the probability of stock recovery and the spatial scale and distribution of marine protected areas, underpinning an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries. Overexploitation of a single marine species may affect whole ecological networks, with unexpected and detrimental results to the environment - a priority area for ecologists focusing on whole ecosystem responses to changing environments.