Climate change is dramatically warming the ocean off eastern Australia, prompting marine life to migrate south to find waters of suitable warmth.
The tropical fish migration will pose a grave threat to local fish and native kelp forests, according to oceanographers from the University of New South Wales. Research fellow Erik van Sebille says unicorn and surgeon fish, usually found in coral reefs, have been documented near Sydney.
"It's basically one big musical chairs, where all of the species living along the east coast of Australia have to move southwards to keep in line with their preferred temperature habitat," van Sebille said.
"Given how far [tropical fish] have come already in the last 30, 40 years or so, it can't be more than a few decades before they come to Batemans Bay," he added.
Tropical fish have altered underwater kelp forests, leaving behind a devastated "desert of the sea" and leading to the destruction of whole ecosystems, van Sebille said.
"It might come back after a few years, maybe 10, 20 years, but particularly for the fisheries industry, of course, that's a long time to wait," he added.
Along with a team of UNSW biologists and climatologists, van Sebille will present research at this week's Greenhouse 2013 conference in Adelaide. He said strong action to prevent climate change could limit warming in the eastern current.
"There are a lot of things that are uncertain in the climate model, and probably the biggest uncertainty is really what the policy is going to be, how much CO2 is going to come into the atmosphere," he said (Larissa Nicholson, Canberra Times, Oct. 8).
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