MEPS 546:225-237 (2016)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11638

Range expansion of the invasive lionfish in the Northwest Atlantic with climate change

Brian D. Grieve1,4,*, Enrique N. Curchitser2, Ryan R. Rykaczewski1,3

1Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
2Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA
3Marine Science Program, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
4Present address: National Marine Fisheries Service, Narragansett, RI 02882, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Growing populations of invasive lionfishes Pterois volitans and P. miles have had detrimental impacts on native marine fish communities and transformed many of the reef ecosystems of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Over the last 3 decades, suitable environmental conditions and lack of natural biological controls have allowed lionfish populations to expand into areas ranging from the tropical waters of the Caribbean to the northern portions of the shelf break along the Southeast United States Continental Shelf (SEUSCS) during all months of the year. Under current climate conditions, continued expansion to waters further north or inshore from the shelf break is unlikely, given the physiological thermal tolerance of lionfish and the cooler temperatures of these waters. However, the geographic range of suitable environments may expand in the future with climate change. Here, we develop a conceptual model of the physical climate niche of lionfish and use projections of future ocean temperatures and salinities to explore potential lionfish habitat through the year 2100 under conditions of anthropogenic climate change. Without successful culling efforts or implementation of climate-change mitigation strategies, the spatial extent of suitable year-round lionfish habitat is expected to increase 45% on the SEUSCS during the 21st century, covering 90% of the region. Establishment of resident populations north of Cape Hatteras is unlikely. Nevertheless, in the coming decades, the potential impact of continued lionfish invasion on the valuable marine ecosystems of the SEUSCS is cause for concern.


KEY WORDS: Lionfish · Climate change · Biogeography · Invasive species · Southeast United States Continental Shelf · CMIP5


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Cite this article as: Grieve BD, Curchitser EN, Rykaczewski RR (2016) Range expansion of the invasive lionfish in the Northwest Atlantic with climate change. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 546:225-237. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11638

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