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Heatwaves are becoming alarmingly common occurrences as human-driven Climate change warms the globe. These heatwaves have devastating effects on ecosystems and animals around the world. Information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has shown that over the last ten years, heat waves have increased in frequency by almost 50 percent. Heatwaves not only affect terrestrial animals but can also have devastating impacts on marine wildlife.
A study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications investigated the effect of marine heatwaves on marine life. Some marine animals can weather heat waves. However, others, including sharks, marine mammals, turtles, and tuna suffer from extreme habitat loss as a result of heatwaves.
The study looked at data collected from tagged animals to investigate how different species responded to changing environments caused by marine heatwaves. The data used was collected from animals in the northeast Pacific Ocean after heatwaves in the years 2014, 2015, 2019, and 2020.
Scientists found that whether marine animals suffered habitat loss was highly variable depending on the heatwave. For example, following the 2015 heatwave, Bluefin tuna and Blue sharks suffered habitat loss. Yet following the 2019 heatwave, California sea lions and elephant seals experienced habitat gain.
Despite variable results following heatwaves, scientists hope that by analyzing the results of this study, predictions can be made about how species will redistribute themselves. This can not only help scientists protect species but also allow them to tell if species will move jurisdictions. The jurisdiction species fall under can affect the Conservation rules surrounding them. Predictive models could help nations plan for the redistribution of certain species due to heat waves and rising ocean temperatures.
Not only are heat waves becoming more common, but the average temperature of all ocean basins is also rising. Since the 1990s, average ocean temperature has steadily increased. The ocean has also absorbed 90 percent of Global warming according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Warming oceans globally cause loss of important habitat, rising sea levels, and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.
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