A Warming Marine Environment and Fish Populations

Reef Environmental Education Foundation’s (REEF)
Image: reef.org

Edwin Hammond Meredith is a Florida Keys chef who enjoys the full range of outdoor pursuits that the region provides. A scuba diving enthusiast, Edwin Hammond Meredith appreciates the value of marine diversity in the region.

A recent report in the Journal of Biogeography looked at the waters surrounding Florida, Bermuda, and the Caribbean and linked higher ocean temperatures to loss of biodiversity. Part of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation’s (REEF) fish survey project, the research utilized the efforts of volunteer scuba divers. Over the past quarter century, thousands of marine citizen scientists have input fish species data based on their observations into the REEF database.

The resulting map provides a snapshot of marine diversity in which the coral reefs and coastal sites of the Florida Keys and the Dutch Antilles have high marine life diversity. At the same time, northern Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and Bermuda have a relative scarcity of species. Unfortunately, warmer temperatures are associated with greater biodiversity only up to a point. When the temperature rises beyond 80 degrees Fahrenheit, diversity is impacted and fish populations become sparser.