Tropical fish moving toward poles, devouring kelp forests

By on July 24, 2014

Tropical chubs are among the range-shifting, kelp-eating species (Credit: Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR)


While colorful schools of tropical fish may entice and dazzle divers, their migration away from the planet’s equator is causing underwater kelp forests and seagrass meadows to disappear, Think Progress reported.

In a phenomenon known as tropicalization, tropical fish are moving toward the poles as temperate waters grow warmer and more hospitable. As they migrate, they devour vegetation that other fish rely upon. Off the southern coast of Japan, tropicalization has led to a 40 percent loss of kelp and algal beds over 20 years.

Authors of a study on tropicalization have suggested that consuming more of the offending fish could be an effective way to mitigate damage in the short term, but warn that care must be taken to avoid overfishing the species that are vital in their natural tropical habitats.

Image: Tropical chubs are among the range-shifting, kelp-eating species (Credit: Dwayne Meadows, NOAA/NMFS/OPR)

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