[MARMAM] New publication assessing changes to odontocete distribution in relation to rapid warming in the Northeast US

Lesley Thorne lesley.thorne at stonybrook.edu
Tue Aug 23 10:31:43 PDT 2022

Dear colleagues,

My coauthors and I are happy to share our new paper "Rapid restructuring of
the odontocete community in an ocean warming hotspot" in Global Change

Thorne, L.H., Heywood, E.I. and Hirtle, N.O., Rapid restructuring of the
odontocete community in an ocean warming hotspot. *Global Change Biology*.

Cetaceans are important consumers in marine ecosystems, but few studies
have quantified their climate responses. The rapid, directional warming
occurring in the Northeast United States (NEUS) provides a unique
opportunity to assess climate impacts on cetaceans. We used stranding data
to examine changes to the distribution and relative abundance of
odontocetes from 1996 to 2020 in both the NEUS and the Southeast United
States (SEUS), which is not warming. We conducted simulations to determine
the number of stranding events needed to detect a distributional shift for
each species given the speed of the shift and the spatial variability in
strandings. We compared observed shifts to climate velocity. Smaller sample
sizes were needed to detect more rapid poleward shifts, particularly for
species with low spatial variability. Poleward shifts were observed in all
species with sufficient sample sizes, and shifts were faster than predicted
by climate velocity. For species whose trailing edge of distribution
occurred in the NEUS, the center of distribution approached the northern
limit of the NEUS and relative abundance declined through time, suggesting
shifts north out of US waters. The relative abundance of warm water species
in the stranding record increased significantly in the NEUS while that of
cool water species declined significantly as their distributions shifted
north out of the NEUS. Changes in the odontocete community were less
apparent in the SEUS, highlighting the importance of regional warming.
Observed poleward shifts and changes in species composition suggest a
reorganization of the odontocete community in the NEUS in response to rapid
warming. We suggest that strandings provide a key dataset for understanding
climate impacts on cetaceans given limitations of survey effort and
modeling approaches for predicting distributions under rapidly changing
conditions. Our findings portend marked changes to the distribution of
highly mobile consumer species across international boundaries under
continued warming.

The full text can be found at:


Lesley Thorne, Associate Professor
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
Stony Brook University,  Stony Brook, NY 11794-5000
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