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Open Access Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(9)

Detecting range shifts among Australian fishes in response to climate change

David J. Booth A D , Nick Bond B C and Peter Macreadie A

A School of the Environment, University of Technology Sydney, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.
B School of Biological Sciences and eWater CRC, Monash University, Clayton, Vic. 3800, Australia.
C Present address: Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: David.Booth@uts.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(9) 1027-1042 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10270
Submitted: 30 October 2010  Accepted: 14 June 2011   Published: 21 September 2011


 
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Abstract

One of the most obvious and expected impacts of climate change is a shift in the distributional range of organisms, which could have considerable ecological and economic consequences. Australian waters are hotspots for climate-induced environmental changes; here, we review these potential changes and their apparent and potential implications for freshwater, estuarine and marine fish. Our meta-analysis detected <300 papers globally on ‘fish’ and ‘range shifts’, with ~7% being from Australia. Of the Australian papers, only one study exhibited definitive evidence of climate-induced range shifts, with most studies focussing instead on future predictions. There was little consensus in the literature regarding the definition of ‘range’, largely because of populations having distributions that fluctuate regularly. For example, many marine populations have broad dispersal of offspring (causing vagrancy). Similarly, in freshwater and estuarine systems, regular environmental changes (e.g. seasonal, ENSO cycles – not related to climate change) cause expansion and contraction of populations, which confounds efforts to detect range ‘shifts’. We found that increases in water temperature, reduced freshwater flows and changes in ocean currents are likely to be the key drivers of climate-induced range shifts in Australian fishes. Although large-scale frequent and rigorous direct surveys of fishes across their entire distributional ranges, especially at range edges, will be essential to detect range shifts of fishes in response to climate change, we suggest careful co-opting of fisheries, museum and other regional databases as a potential, but imperfect alternative.

Additional keywords: catch databases, climate-change impacts, distributional patterns, distributional range, geographic limits, habitat loss, ocean acidification, range edge, sea-level rise.


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