BEIJING, July 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Researchers are
pointing fingers at global warming again, saying it has caused dramatic
shifts in some aquatic communities in which fish populations die off and crabs,
lobsters and squid take over.
The finding comes from a new analysis of 50 years
worth of fish-trawling data collected in Narragansett Bay and adjacent Rhode
Island Sound but may apply elsewhere, researchers said.
Resident fish communities have progressively shifted
from vertebrate species (fish) to the invertebrates (lobsters and crabs); from
bottom-feeders to species that find their food higher up in the water column;
and from larger, cool-water species to smaller, warm-water dwellers.
"This is a pretty dramatic change, and it's a pattern
that is being seen in other ecosystems ... but we're in the relatively unique
position of being able to document it," said Jeremy Collie of the University of
Rhode Island, leader of the new study.
Collie said while most of the changes observed
in the survey occurred slowly, an abrupt change appeared to take place in 1980
and 1981 when benthic species (or bottom-feeders), such as winter flounder and
silver hake, declined and pelagic species (or those that feed closer to the
surface), such as butterfish and bluefish, increased.
"We think there has been a shift in the food web
resulting in more of the productivity being consumed in the water column,"
Collie explained. "Phytoplankton are increasingly being grazed by zooplankton,
which are then eaten by planktivorous fish, rather than the phytoplankton
sinking to the bottom and being consumed by bottom fish. It's a rerouting of
that production from the bottom to the top."
Collie also noted that it was the decline of benthic
species that had freed up the bottom of the bay for lobsters and crabs to move