Divergent responses of highly migratory species to climate change in the California Current

Lezama‐Ochoa N, Brodie S, Welch H, et al (2024) Divergent responses of highly migratory species to climate change in the California Current. Diversity and Distributions 30:e13800. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13800


Marine biodiversity faces unprecedented threats from anthropogenic climate change. Ecosystem responses to climate change have exhibited substantial variability in the direction and magnitude of redistribution, posing challenges for developing effective climate‐adaptive marine management strategies.

The California Current Ecosystem (CCE), USA.

We project suitable habitat for 10 highly migratory species in the California Current System using an ensemble of three high‐resolution (~10 km) downscaled ocean projections under the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5). Spanning the period from 1980 to 2100, our analysis focuses on assessing the direction and distance of distributional shifts, as well as changes in core habitat area for each species.

Our findings reveal a divergent response among species to climate impacts. Specifically, four species were projected to undergo significant poleward shifts exceeding 100 km, and gain habitat (~7%–60%) in response to climate change. Conversely, six species were projected to shift towards the coast, resulting in a loss of habitat ranging from 10% to 66% by the end of the century. These divergent responses could typically be characterized by the mode of thermoregulation (i.e. ectotherm vs. endotherm) and species' affiliations with cool and productive upwelled waters that are characteristic of the region. Furthermore, our study highlights an increase in niche overlap between protected species and those targeted by fisheries, which may lead to increased human interaction events under climate change.

Main Conclusions
By providing valuable species distribution projections, our research contributes to the understanding of climate change effects on marine biodiversity and offers critical insight and support for developing climate‐ready management of protected and fished species.