Science News
from research organizations

Ecologists predict impact of climate change on vulnerable species

Date:
July 14, 2015
Source:
University of Toronto
Summary:
As climate changes, many species are spreading beyond their historical ranges. Here biologists announce a method to predict which species decline as a result. Testing the method in Ontario, Canada, lakes where bass species have expanded northward with increasing temperatures, small fishes and fishes which rarely occurred with bass species were most likely to be lost where bass recently established. The method can predict losses due to competition and predation in a variety of organisms.
Share:
FULL STORY

An Ontario freshwater Lake Chub. Of all North American minnows, it is the one with the northernmost distribution. University of Toronto ecologists found its existence threatened by predators whose range of habitats are expanding northward due to climate change. (Photo: Don Jackson)
Credit: Don Jackson/University of Toronto

If it seems like you're pulling more bass than trout out of Ontario's lakes this summer, you probably are.

Blame it on the ripple effect of climate change and warming temperatures. Birds migrate earlier, flowers bloom faster, and fish move to newly warmed waters putting local species at risk.

To mitigate the trend and support conservation efforts, scientists at the University of Toronto (U of T) are sharing a way to predict which plants or animals may be vulnerable to the arrival of a new species.

The researchers looked specifically at the impact of several species of bass, fish that prefer warm water and have expanded their range northward over the past 30 years as temperatures have increased. They looked at both historical and recent data for 30 different fish species in more than 1500 lakes throughout Ontario. In most cases, they found bass and smaller fish species did not share the lake for long -- the bass wiped out vulnerable fish species in relatively short order, in part by taking a share of the food available and in part by predation.

"We found that prized sportfish, such as Brook trout and the smaller fish that trout eat, are disappearing from lakes where species of Bass have expanded their habitats," said Karen Alofs, a postdoctoral researcher working with ecologist and conservation biologist Donald Jackson in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at U of T, describing a study published this week in Proceeding of the Royal Society B.

If a dominant species can thrive in a warmer environment and wipe out other species, climate change could significantly reduce the diversity of species in our lakes as well. Less diversity could also have economic repercussions for Ontario. According to a 2010 survey of recreational fishing, anglers contributed more than $2 billion to the province's economy.

The researchers hope their work will help resource managers and scientists keep a close eye on species that are moving north with climate change over time, and predict their impact on other species so they can concentrate conservation efforts and future research accordingly.

The study uses data from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the Royal Ontario Museum, collected through long-term and large-scale monitoring of the province's approximately 250,000 lakes.

"It's important to anticipate how climate change will shape future fish communities, and ultimately fishing opportunities and the sustainability of aquatic ecosystems," said Alofs. "We are just beginning to understand the variety of indirect consequences related to climate change."


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Toronto. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Karen Alofs and Donald Jackson. "The vulnerability of species to range expansions by predators can be predicted using historical species associations and body size. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, July 15, 2015

Cite This Page:

University of Toronto. "Ecologists predict impact of climate change on vulnerable species." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150714200056.htm>.
University of Toronto. (2015, July 14). Ecologists predict impact of climate change on vulnerable species. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150714200056.htm
University of Toronto. "Ecologists predict impact of climate change on vulnerable species." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/07/150714200056.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

RELATED STORIES