Using observations of fish outside their usual distribution as early indicators of climate-driven range shifts

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1. Background

Marine species are shifting their normal distributions in response to long-term climatic changes seven times faster than terrestrial species. Species redistribution can have positive and/or negative effects on human wellbeing, ecosystems and climate itself. In Australia, Redmap, the Range Extension Database and Mapping project, engages fishers and divers from the public in ‘early detection’ of species changing distributions. Predicting what species will be moving where, and when, means we could better manage implications resulting from range shifts. Our Fogarty et al., 2017 paper in Global Change Biology addresses the need to predict future climate-driven ecological changes in the preliminary stages.

2. Methods

To investigate whether out-of-range species sightings could be an early indicator of future climate-driven ecological changes, we conducted an extensive literature search to find global out-of-range species sightings. Where the driver behind the unusual sighting was difficult to determine, or was clearly not induced by climate, that species was excluded from the analysis, e.g. highly migratory species and cryptic species, or species transported by human interventions (e.g. invasive species). We then examined the relationships between the out-of-range species sightings and long-term climate data, to determine whether the locations and patterns of these species sightings could be linked to longer-term environmental patterns associated with climate change. We also accounted for sampling effort, as the number of unusual sightings was higher in locations with higher levels of human activity.

3. Results

We found that there is potential to predict impending species range shifts through monitoring and recording these out-of-range species sightings. Our results showed a positive correlation between the locations of our out-of-range sightings and patterns of climate change, suggesting that these unusual species sightings were not occurring simply due to chance, but as a result of climate change. Our results also indicated that tropical latitudes are the most affected, with 90% of the species being either tropical or sub-tropical, and all out-of-range sightings occurred in waters closer to the poles than they would usually be found.

4. Conclusions

Our recent research demonstrates that sightings of species outside their normal distribution are likely to have ecological relevance as the early stages of a change in species distribution. We find that out-of-range species sightings could be used to predict species range shifts driven by climate before a species has established a stable population in a new location. This outcome will allow resource managers and researchers more time to better manage opportunities arising from species range shifts.

Already, hundreds of Australian fishers and divers have submitted to Redmap photographs of out-of-range marine observations that have then been verified by one of 80 scientists from over 20 institutes around the country. Redmap generates valuable data to supplement our scientific research, and furthers our knowledge on how our systems are changing, through the participation of, and inclusion of valuable knowledge from local marine community members. Redmap also creates greater public awareness of what changes are occurring, so that everyone (from local community members to policy and decision-makers) can better understand and prepare for climate-driven ecological changes.

5. Future ideas/collaborators needed to further research?

Climate driven species redistributions are having huge effects in ecosystems, on human well-being and even for climate itself (Pecl et al., 2017). Our current research shows that the early detection of out-of-range species are an indication of climate-driven range shifts. Our research team will continue to promote Redmap Australia to communicate and engage the public to report unusual species. Redmap has been running since 2009 and has demonstrated huge value in ecological monitoring of species potentially affected by climate change and public education surrounding this. For example, these data are used to provide an early warning system of potential research and to then direct necessary research into these areas; to help with detailed examination of particular observations and interesting biological phenomena; as well as underpinning socio-ecological studies on engaging the community with climate change.

Our research is useful to various resource managers and researchers, therefore integrating this prediction or early warning system into environmental and resource management plans would be beneficial for both local economies and ecosystems.

Pecl, GT et al., 2017, 'Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being', Science, vol. 355, no. 6332, p. eaai9214.

6. Please share a link to your paper

Link to recent research article:

Fogarty, HE, Burrows, MT, Pecl, GT, Robinson, LM & Poloczanska, ES 2017, 'Are fish outside their usual ranges early indicators of climate-driven range shifts?', Global Change Biology, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 2047-2057.

Link to Redmap Australia:


Ehsan Mousavi
almost 3 years ago

This is an excellent approach!

Angela John
over 2 years ago

The Earth's atmosphere can be influenced by common factors that are outside of the atmosphere framework, Buy essays for example, changes in volcanic movement, sunlight based yield, and the Earth's circle around the Sun. Of these, the two components significant on timescales of contemporary environmental change are changes in volcanic movement and changes in sunlight based radiation.

Jack William
almost 2 years ago

I already this book and I must say that you did a great work, This needs the whole research which you did well. The also suggest you the same book which I recommend to you.

Anthony William
almost 2 years ago

The results always depend on the hard work that you did for the work for you are looking for the results. so do your best for the results.


We are a group of researchers ranging from students to Professors, interested in how we can better understand and prepare for climate-driven ecological changes. Our team includes Hannah Fogarty (CM...

Round: Open Peer Vote
Category: Climate Impact Prize






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