Master student used species occurrence records from Marine Forests, the GBIF network and other sources to examine how rising temperatures may be altering the distribution of macroalgae along the Atlantic coasts.
Marine forests of large brown algae thrive mainly in cold- to warm temperate waters that are rich in nutrients, but they can develop even in the tropics under some conditions. They occupy a great proportion of the coastlines of the continents and there are extensive subtidal algal forests even in the Antarctic region.
Many animals live in marine forests and use them to hunt or mate. Young animals also use marine forests as nursery grounds, including fishery species of great economic and cultural importance.
In lower latitudes, near the southern extent of their ranges, marine forests are most sensitive to changes in water temperature, and rising temperatures can prompt adaptation, range contraction or expansion and, in some cases, local extirpations.
The research of Raquel Gaião used occurrence records provided by citizens engaged to project Marine Forests, the GBIF network and other sources, to highlight the likely climate-induced impacts on marine macroalgae from the Bay of Biscay to the Strait of Gibraltar.
Main findings supported by citizen science data:
1. Unreported recent changes in distribution, particularly at the southern geographic limits of species’ ranges
2. Assessments of temperature trends as they relate to the known physiological preferences and limits of the species under investigation
3. Forecasts of species distribution patterns based on future temperature models