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MEPS 657:1-23 (2021)  -  DOI:

Climate change winner in the deep sea? Predicting the impacts of climate change on the distribution of the glass sponge Vazella pourtalesii

Lindsay Beazley1,*, Ellen Kenchington1, Francisco Javier Murillo1, David Brickman1, Zeliang Wang1, Andrew J. Davies2, Emyr Martyn Roberts3, Hans Tore Rapp3,†

1Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia B2Y 4A2, Canada
2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, Rhode Island 02881, USA
3Department of Biological Sciences and K. G. Jebsen Centre for Deep-Sea Research, University of Bergen, 5020 Bergen, Norway
*Corresponding author: Deceased

ABSTRACT: Shallow-water sponges are often cited as being ‘climate change winners’ due to their resiliency against climate change effects compared to other benthic taxa. However, little is known of the impacts of climate change on deep-water sponges. The deep-water glass sponge Vazella pourtalesii is distributed off eastern North America, forming dense sponge grounds with enhanced biodiversity on the Scotian Shelf off Nova Scotia, Canada. While the strong natural environmental variability that characterizes these sponge grounds suggests this species is resilient to a changing environment, its physiological limitations remain unknown, and the impact of more persistent anthropogenic climate change on its distribution has never been assessed. We used Random Forest and generalized additive models to project the distribution of V. pourtalesii in the northwest Atlantic using environmental conditions simulated under moderate and worst-case CO2 emission scenarios. Under future (2046-2065) climate change, the suitable habitat of V. pourtalesii will increase up to 4 times its present-day size and shift into deeper waters and higher latitudes, particularly in its northern range where ocean warming will serve to improve the habitat surrounding this originally sub-tropical species. However, not all areas projected as suitable habitat in the future will realistically be populated, and the reduced likelihood of occurrence in its core habitat on the Scotian Shelf suggests that the existing Vazella sponge grounds may be negatively impacted. An effective monitoring programme will require tracking changes in the density and distribution of V. pourtalesii at the margins between core habitat and where losses and gains were projected.

KEY WORDS: Glass sponge · Vazella pourtalesii · Northwest Atlantic · Deep sea · Climate change · Species distribution modelling · Random Forest · Generalized additive model

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Cite this article as: Beazley L, Kenchington E, Murillo FJ, Brickman D and others (2021) Climate change winner in the deep sea? Predicting the impacts of climate change on the distribution of the glass sponge Vazella pourtalesii. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 657:1-23.

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