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A cascade of warming impacts brings bluefin tuna to Greenland waters

Authors

  • Brian R. MacKenzie,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, National Institute for Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua), Technical University of Denmark, Charlottenlund, Denmark
    2. Center for Ocean Life, National Institute for Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua), Technical University of Denmark, Charlottenlund, Denmark
    • Correspondence: Brian R. MacKenzie, tel. +45-3588-3445; fax +45-3588-3333, e-mail: brm@aqua.dtu.dk

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  • Mark R. Payne,

    1. Center for Ocean Life, National Institute for Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua), Technical University of Denmark, Charlottenlund, Denmark
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  • Jesper Boje,

    1. National Institute for Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua), Technical University of Denmark, Charlottenlund, Denmark
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  • Jacob L. Høyer,

    1. Danmarks Meteorologisk Institut, Copenhagen Ø, Denmark
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  • Helle Siegstad

    1. Greenland Institute for Natural Resources, Nuuk, Greenland
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Abstract

Rising ocean temperatures are causing marine fish species to shift spatial distributions and ranges, and are altering predator-prey dynamics in food webs. Most documented cases of species shifts so far involve relatively small species at lower trophic levels, and consider individual species in ecological isolation from others. Here, we show that a large highly migratory top predator fish species has entered a high latitude subpolar area beyond its usual range. Bluefin tuna, Thunnus thynnus Linnaeus 1758, were captured in waters east of Greenland (65°N) in August 2012 during exploratory fishing for Atlantic mackerel, Scomber scombrus Linnaeus 1758. The bluefin tuna were captured in a single net-haul in 9–11 °C water together with 6 tonnes of mackerel, which is a preferred prey species and itself a new immigrant to the area. Regional temperatures in August 2012 were historically high and contributed to a warming trend since 1985, when temperatures began to rise. The presence of bluefin tuna in this region is likely due to a combination of warm temperatures that are physiologically more tolerable and immigration of an important prey species to the region. We conclude that a cascade of climate change impacts is restructuring the food web in east Greenland waters.

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