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Oct 13, 2014 05:14 AM EDT

Climate Change May Force Fish to Relocate to Poles, Study

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A new University of British Columbia study claims that a large number of fish will vanish from the tropics by 2050.

The researchers analysed the influence of climate change on 802 commercially important species of fish and invertebrates. They found that varying temperatures will drive more marine fish and invertebrates into the Arctic and Antarctic waters.

For example, if the Earth's oceans warm by three degrees Celsius by 2100, fish could relocate from their current habitats at a rate of 26 kilometres per decade. And if the Earth oceans warm by one degree Celsius, fish would move 15 kilometres every decade.

"The tropics will be the overall losers," said William Cheung, associate professor at the UBC Fisheries Centre and co-author of this study, in a statement.  "This area has a high dependence on fish for food, diet and nutrition. We'll see a loss of fish populations that are important to the fisheries and communities in these regions."

"As fish move to cooler waters, this generates new opportunities for fisheries in the Arctic," said Miranda Jones, a UBC Nereus Fellow and lead author of this study. "On the other hand it means it could disrupt the species that live there now and increase competition for resources."

The finding is published in the ICES Journal of Marine Science.

According to a recent study by the University of Nevada, climate change may be responsible for declination of the adult population of threatened Devils Hole pupfish.

The researchers said that the rising temperature of the geothermal water - as high as 93 degrees - in the Nevada desert has reached the threshold of the pupfish's endurance. The hotter water has reduced the egg hatching time during the optimal recruitment periods by one week.

"Climate change is making it harder for the Devils Hole pupfish to survive and has most likely contributed to the decline we have seen," said Mark Hausner, a hydrologist at the Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas, Nev., and lead author of the paper, in a press release.

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