Atlantic marine life facing oxygen crisis

This article is from the March 2017 issue of Canadian Innovation News. You can read the full issue here.

Although there is a range of environmental conditions in which an animal can survive, there is an even smaller range of conditions in which it can thrive.

Lead researcher Dr. Catherine Brennan, now at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography

New research from the national Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response (MEOPAR) Network finds that low oxygen levels may stress, or even kill, a number of marine fish and invertebrates off Eastern Canada in the next 50 years.

The Eastern Canadian fisheries of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Scotian Shelf are globally important fisheries. But the effects of climate change, such as increasing temperatures, increasing acidity, and lowered oxygen levels, are placing stress on marine fish and invertebrates, which could affect the fisheries’ future viability.

The study, led by Dr. Catherine Brennan during her time as a MEOPAR-funded postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University, used computers to model currents and physical characteristics, such as salinity and temperature, of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Scotian Shelf.

The study concludes that if the current trends of increasing temperature and decreasing oxygen continue, “many species will encounter unsuitable temperature or oxygen conditions within the next century,” and that some will do so in the next 50 years.

“Each species has a thermal limit, a maximum temperature above which they are not able to thrive,” explains Brennan. “For example, Atlantic Cod, which inhabit the western Scotian Shelf, are at the upper boundary of their thermal limit, so any bit of warming that occurs in this region is going to be too warm for them.”

Atlantic cod (Photo: © Hans Hillewaert)

The researchers hope others will use and expand the open access dataset they compiled to better our understanding of the regional effects of climate change.

The study, Putting Temperature and Oxygen Thresholds of Marine Animals in Context of Environmental Change: A Regional Perspective for the Scotian Shelf and Gulf of St. Lawrence, was published in open access journal PLOS ONE, here. To access the dataset, go to the supporting information of the paper.

MEOPAR is a national Network of Centre of Excellence hosted at Dalhousie University that sees academic researchers and students, government scientists, and partners in the private, NGO and community sectors working together to reduce vulnerability and strengthen opportunity in Canada’s marine environment.

Source: MEOPAR


This article is from the March 2017 issue of Canadian Innovation News. You can read the full issue here.