Poleward Bound: Adapting to climate-driven species redistribution

Family harvests on Sosnovka, 2020.

Family harvests on Sosnovka, 2020.

A new science article from Snowchange and leading ecologists in marine sciences reviews and discusses the meaning, significance and deductions of the poleward movement of species and fishery stocks both for science and Indigenous and traditional maritime communities. 

One of the most pronounced effects of climate change on the world’s oceans is the (generally) poleward movement of species and fishery stocks in response to increasing water temperatures. This paper reviews the meanings from science and Indigenous knowledge to position the present change.

In some regions, such redistributions are already causing dramatic shifts in marine socioecological systems, profoundly altering ecosystem structure and function, challenging domestic and international fisheries, and impacting on human communities. Such effects are expected to become increasingly widespread as waters continue to warm and species ranges continue to shift.

00615Actions taken over the coming decade (2021-2030) can help us adapt to species redistributions and minimise negative impacts on ecosystems and human communities, achieving a more sustainable future in the face of ecosystem change. We describe key drivers related to climate-driven species redistributions that are likely to have a high impact and influence on whether a sustainable future is achievable by 2030. We posit two different futures – a ‘business as usual’ future and a technically achievable and more sustainable future, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals.

We then identify concrete actions that provide a pathway towards the more sustainable 2030 and that acknowledge and include Indigenous perspectives. Achieving this sustainable future will depend on improved monitoring and detection, and on adaptive, cooperative management to proactively respond to the challenge of species redistribution. We synthesise examples of such actions as the basis of a strategic approach to tackle this global-scale challenge for the benefit of humanity and ecosystems.

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