Your records matter for biodiversity science

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.

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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.

2018 GBIF Young Researcher Award: Raquel Gaião Silva from GBIF on Vimeo

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

The importance of data repositories

“There are large amounts of data from the past state of biodiversity for many regions across the world, that are not used because they are not easily accessible to the researchers and the general public. It is therefore extremely useful and important to have a resource like GBIF integrating data on global scales, allowing researchers like Raquel to integrate all such sources efficiently and to analyse what has been changing in the biodiversity of ecosystems along large regions.” Prof. Ester A. Serrão

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