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Warming ocean temperatures may force New Zealand’s whales to shift south

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A recent study used mathematical models to predict how whales may respond to warming ocean temperatures, with results showing a shift to the cooler southern waters.

The research looked at sperm and blue whales, who play a key role in ocean health, and used a combination of mathematical models (known as correlative species distribution models) to predict the future range shifts of these whale species as a response to three future climate change scenarios of differing severity, as outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The overall results show a clear southward shift for both species, mostly driven by rising temperatures at the sea surface.

Projected change in habitat suitability by 2100, for sperm (left panels) and blue (right panels) whales under two IPCC climate scenarios: modest mitigation (RCP4.5) and no mitigation (RCP8.5). Percentages are expressed as relative to each species’ present-day distribution.

Adapted from an article by The Conversation (18/08/2022).

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