Major changes consistent with the fingerprint of global warming have been reported for nearly every ecosystem on earth. Recently, studies have moved beyond correlation-based inference to demonstrate mechanistic links between warming and biological responses, particularly in regions experiencing rapid change. However, the assessment of climate change impacts and development of adaptation options that humans can undertake are at the earliest stages, particularly for marine systems. Here, we use trends in ocean temperature to characterize regions that can act as natural laboratories or focal points for early learning. These discrete marine ‘hotspots’, where ocean warming is fastest, were identified based on 50 years of historical sea surface temperature data. Persistence of these hotspots into the future was evaluated using global climate models. This analysis provides insights and a starting point for scientists aiming to identify key regions of concern with regard to ocean warming, and illustrates a potential approach for considering additional physical drivers of change such as ocean pH or oxygenation. We found that some hotspot regions were of particular concern due to other non-climate stressors. For instance, many of the marine hotspots occur where human dependence on marine resources is greatest, such as south-east Asia and western Africa, and are therefore of critical consideration in the context of food security. Intensive study and development of comprehensive inter-disciplinary networks based on the hotspot regions identified here will allow earliest testing of management and adaptation pathways, facilitating rapid global learning and implementation of adaptation options to cope with future change.
Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 24, 2013
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