Vulnerability of exploited deep-sea demersal species to ocean warming, deoxygenation, and acidification

Vulnerability of marine species to climate change (including ocean acidification, deoxygenation, and associated changes in food supply) depends on species’ ecological and biological characteristics. Most existing assessments focus on coastal species but systematic analysis of climate vulnerability for the deep sea is lacking. Here, we combine a fuzzy logic expert system with species biogeographical data to assess the risks of climate impacts to the population viability of 32 species of exploited demersal deep-sea species across the global ocean. Climatic hazards are projected to emerge from historical variabilities in all the recorded habitats of the studied species by the mid-twenty-first century. Species that are both at very high risk of climate impacts and highly vulnerable to fishing include Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni), rose fish (Sebastes norvegicus), roughhead grenadier (Macrourus berglax), Baird’s slickhead (Alepocephalus bairdii), cusk (Brosme brosme), and Portuguese dogfish (Centroscymnus coelepis). Most exploited deep-sea fishes are likely to be at higher risk of local, or even global, extinction than previously assessed because of their high vulnerability to both climate change and fishing. Spatially, a high concentration of deep-sea species that are climate vulnerable is predicted in the northern Atlantic Ocean and the Indo-Pacific region. Aligning carbon mitigation with improved fisheries management offers opportunities for overall risk reduction in the coming decades. Regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) have an obligation to incorporate climate change in their deliberations. In addition, deep-sea areas that are not currently managed by RFMOs should be included in existing or new international governance institutions or arrangements.

Cheung W. W. L., Wei C. L. & Levin L. A., in press. Vulnerability of exploited deep-sea demersal species to ocean warming, deoxygenation, and acidification. Environmental Biology of Fishes. Article.

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