18 August 2017
Climate change is expected to create conditions for marine non-native species to survive further north around northwest Europe in the future, with a range of economic and ecological consequences according to predictions developed through new modelling approaches developed by scientists.
New research by a cross-disciplinary team from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Met Office, The University of Exeter and the University of East Anglia increases the chance that marine non-native species, that have caused damage in other regions, can be identified earlier as they are able to become established in areas which were previously unsuitable.
The marine non-native species identified in the paper include the slipper limpet which can reduce biological diversity and can affect growth of commercial shellfish, and the Pacific oyster, which could offer potential commercial opportunities (summarised in table attached).
This new study, published in Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, modelled how marine climate change could affect future establishment of the potentially most impactful species in northwest Europe, to enable scientists to understand the potential impacts to anticipate and plan for such establishing populations. Marine species can be accidentally transported via a range of activities but can only become established if environmental conditions are suitable.
The team used cutting-edge oceanography and climate models, produced by the Met Office Hadley Centre, to forecast and map suitable future environmental conditions for pest species throughout the 21st Century. Their models predict that non-native species that have already caused significant impacts in other regions may soon become established further north, with potential consequences as they may displace native species and foul harbours, boats and power stations.
Lead author Dr Bryony Townhill, Marine Climate Change Scientist at Cefas who carried out the research during her joint PhD at University of Exeter, said: "This is the first time that high resolution Northern European marine climate models have been combined with global models, providing a much clearer picture of what could happen around the UK and Europe. Knowing which species are likely to spread, and to where, means that we can focus efforts to understand their potential impacts and explore opportunities to prepare or mitigate them."
Dr Stephen Simpson, Associate Professor in Marine Biology & Global Change at the University of Exeter, said "Using the latest climate models and our understanding of the ecological requirements of non-native species, we have constructed a crystal ball that shows us which coastlines are most vulnerable. This gives us a valuable head start in preparing to manage the spread."
This study increases the chances that species of particular interest can be detected early. The results can be used to prioritise the highest risk species to monitor or eradicate in certain areas, including in marine protected areas, marinas, harbours and power stations.
The study can be accessed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.2764/full.
Figure 1: Species selected for distribution modelling, table
Full-size version available at: https://postimg.org/image/mntb9h54v/
Notes to editors:
- The article can be found at: https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2764
- Article citation: Townhill B, Pinnegar J, Tinker J, et al. Non-native marine species in north-West Europe: Developing an approach to assess future spread using regional downscaled climate projections. Aquatic Conserv: Marine Freshwater Ecosystems. 2017;00:1â€“16. https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2764
- The results of this study will enable managers of protected areas or important infrastructure, such as marinas and power stations, to identify high risk areas and priority species as soon as they arrive, and activate eradication programmes before they become fully established, thus saving money and conferring a higher chance of success
- The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university that combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 19,000 students and is ranked 7th in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide league table, 10th in The Complete University Guide and 9th in the Guardian University Guide 2015. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), the University ranked 16th nationally, with 98% of its research rated as being of international quality. Exeter was The Sunday Times University of the Year 2012-13.
- The University has invested strategically to deliver more than Â£350 million worth of new facilities across its campuses in the last few years; including landmark new student services centres - the Forum in Exeter and The Exchange on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, together with world-class new facilities for Biosciences, the Business School and the Environment and Sustainability Institute. There are plans.Â exeter.ac.uk. For more information, contact Dr Stephen Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07900551883.
- Pacific Oyster image credit: Paul Brazier - CCW (Crown Copyright, GBNNS gallery, http://www.nonnativespecies.org/home/index.cfm)