Tropical Fish Cause Trouble as Climate Change Drives Them Toward the Poles

By Doug Struck for National Geographic
7/29/2014 10:10:24 AM

The following is an excerpt from National Geographic:

Marine ecologist Adriana Vergés emerged from a scuba dive in Tosa Bay off the coast of southern Japan last week and was amazed at what she'd seen: A once lush kelp forest had been stripped bare and replaced by coral.

This spotlight parrot fish (Sparisoma viride) was spotted grazing on coral near the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean. Photograph by age fotostock Spain, S.L. via Alamy

The bay is hundreds of miles north of the tropics, but now "it feels like a tropical place," said Vergés, a lecturer at New South Wales University in Australia.

The undersea world is on the move. Climate change is propelling fish and other ocean life into what used to be cooler waters, and researchers are scrambling to understand what effect that is having on their new neighborhoods. They are finding that the repercussions of the migration of tropical fish, in particular, are often devastating. Invading tropical species are stripping kelp forests in Japan, Australia, and the eastern Mediterranean and chowing down on sea grass in the northern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic seaboard.

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