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Research highlights


Click on the images to access the papers - full list of publications through the links on the right


Scientific Reports (García Molinos et al. 2022). To understand ecological patterns, and the processes that produce them, we need to analyze and compare them across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Here, we use paired air–water mean daily and monthly summer temperatures collected over four years from 130 monitoring stations in Japanese mid- to low-order streams to demonstrate how the significant cooling effect, high relative importance and strong dominance exerted by the riparian forest cover on daily temperatures at the reach scale becomes dampened by the effect of the proportion of volcanic geology on monthly temperatures at the catchment scale. These results highlight the importance of the timescale of the analysis on the effects of environmental controls on water temperatures. Such dependencies are particularly important for the management and conservation of instream thermal habitats in a rapidly warming world.

Nature (Free et al. 2022). Rapid human population growth and climate change will compromise food security globally. In this paper we look into the future scope for global seafood production through coordinated reforms in fisheries and mariculture under climate change. We find that the ocean could produce in the future more food than it does today if swift and ambitious action is taken to reduce emissions, reform capture fisheries and expand sustainable mariculture operations globally.

Nature Climate Change (Brito-Morales et al. 2022). This paper presents a novel, three-dimensional global prioritization analysis to identify vertically-coherent locations for marine protected areas in the high seas that conserves biodiversity while minimizing future climate change exposure across depth domains, retains species within reserve boundaries and reduces conflict with fishing. Given the current focus on increasing the area of protected ocean to 30% by 2030, this study provides a fresh and innovative approach towards for developing a full network of climate-smart high-seas marine reserves in the high seas, of which only 1.2% is currently protected.

Global Change Ecology (Ross et al. 2022). One of the signatures of climate change are more frequent and intense extreme climatic events, such as heatwaves. Yet, the consequences of these changes for ecosystem functioning are still not well understood particularly when interacting with other stressors. Here we conducted a stream mesocosm experiment at the Tomakomai experimental forest (Hokkaido, Japan) to show that show that the loss of predator species—a prevailing characteristic of the extinction crisis—can interact with heatwaves to moderate the compositional stability of multitrophic stream communities. Our study thus underscore the importance of conserving trophic structure, and highlight the potential for species extinctions to amplify the effects of climate change and extreme events.


Ecological Indicators (Araújo-Flores et al. 2021). Artisanal gold mining is an important driver of deforestation in the Western Amazon. Abandoned mines, however, leave behind a network of ponds that are subsequently colonized by biota from surrounding water bodies. This study presents the first comprehensive survey of the metacommunities associated to 3 of these abandoned ponds in the the Madre de Dios river basin (Peru). We found amazingly diverse metacommunities including 103 species of fish, 87 macoinvertebrate, 71 phytoplankton and 44 zooplankton taxa. These communities are primarily regulated by flood frequency and seasonality. Our study highlights the very important ecological value of these artificial water bodies and signals a potential role in providing of ecosystem services currently overlooked from conservation policies and management of the aquatic resources.


Nature Climate Change (Brito-Morales et al. 2020). Much of the focus on climate change-related impacts to the ocean has concentrated on the surface waters, with a perception that slower warming in the deep ocean means lower risk to biodiversity. In this paper we conduct a global analysis to show that indeed contemporary climate velocities have been faster deeper than at surface and, worrisome enough, will keep accelerating into the future irrespective of the emission scenario followed. These results highlight the urgent need for comprehensive and integrated conservation and climate adaptation strategies for deep ocean biodiversity.

Nature Sustainability (Oremus et al. 2020). Conventional fisheries management assumes stocks as a static resource, renewable under appropriate management. But what happens when climate change drives fishery stocks out of these countries? We show that this situation will become increasingly likely for many countries in the future, particularly in the tropics where projected exits are highest and entries are fewest. Yet existing multinational agreements and policy frameworks are poorly equipped for this challenge. We suggest a way forward that draws on climate policy.


Nature Climate Change (Burrows et al. 2019). Understanding how biological communities respond to climate warming is crucial for improving management and conservation. Using 29 years of fish and plankton data from the north Pacific and Atlantic regions we found that communities composition and structure is changing rapidly as oceans warm with warm-water species replacing in number and presence cold-water species. Importantly, we found these changes to be largely predictable using constituent species' thermal ranges to asses community-level change in thermal affinity and composition.

Credit: Naoki H. Kumagai

​Methods in Ecology and Evolution (García Molinos et al. 2019). The velocity of climate change is a metric describing the temporal rate of change in climatic conditions across space widely used to analyze climate residence time, climate refugia, historic and projected species' range shifts, or climate connectivity. We have put together an R package containing all the necessary functions for calculating climate velocity and related metrics such as climate trajectories. Why not trying it out on your data?

PNAS (Kumagai et al. 2018). Climate change and ocean currents are causing rapid marine community shifts in Japan’s coastal ecosystems. Here, we used long-term historical records of macroalgae, coral and associated herbivorous fish collected across the Japanese archipelago to understand better how the combination of these two factors is driving community shifts through changes in species distribution dynamics.

Photo: Kristian Magnus Kanstad

Science Advances (Gaines et al. 2018). Previous studies have shown how climate change can impact global fisheries. However, the scope of management reforms to alleviate these impacts remains largely unknown. Using a bioeconomic model applied to over 900 global stocks we show how the implementation of fully climate-adaptive management strategies can yield, on average, more healthy and profitable stocks than those currently existing even under extreme climate warming scenarios.

Scientific Reports (García Molinos et al. 2017). Many species are responding to climate change by shifting their distributions, which often translates into movements towards higher latitudes, deeper waters or higher terrain. However, observed distribution shifts are not always consistent with these expectations. We have conducted a global meta-analysis of documented distribution shifts in marine biota revealing novel evidence for one extra piece of this puzzle: the role of external directional forces such as air and ocean currents in facilitating or limiting range shift responses to warming.

Limnology and Oceanography (Xu et al. 2016). Understanding how different ecosystems subsidize each other in terms of resources, energy and nutrient flow, refugia or species interactions is crucial for a holistic understanding of ecosystem functioning on which to base better management and conservation practices. Using historical and current data from over 20 Chinese floodplain lakes, we analyzed changes in taxonomic and trophic properties of fish assemblages along a habitat linkage gradient, from pelagic to benthic, and how those changes are influenced by the increasing human alteration of these lakes over recent decades.

Nature Climate Change (García Molinos et al. 2016). How will global patterns of marine biodiversity rearrange under future climate change? That's short of a million dollar question but we made a first-cut attempt using a simple thermal niche model for projecting changes in the distribution of +12,000 species based on climate velocity trajectories, species' thermal tolerances and depth zonation. This video resumes our work nicely.