High temperatures promote biodiversity in arctic and subarctic waters

The study results demonstrate that global warming is leading to a redistribution of species not only in the tropics but also in the polar regions.

A peer-reviewed publication


A new study by Nordic University (Norway) in which Institut de Ciènies del Mar (ICM-CSIC) in Barcelona has confirmed that high temperatures in arctic and subarctic waters – particularly affected by global warming – are promoting settlement in these waters of species that formerly lived in warmer areas further south.

Details of the study are reported in a recently published journal article PNAS. For the study, data obtained from more than 20,000 trawl surveys in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea between 1994 and 2020 were analyzed.

“In 1994, an average of 8 fish species were caught in each trawl in the Norwegian Sea and Barents Sea, while in 2020 this number increases to more than 13 species, representing a 66% increase. The results of the study also show a small, albeit less significant, increase in the wealth of neighborhoods,” explains the lead author. Cesc Gordó-Vilasecafrom Nord University.

This demonstrates that water warming due to climate change is leading to a redistribution of species, not only in warmer – more studied – but also in colder regions such as the poles, is warming at a much faster rate than the rest of the planet.

Different responses to warming

On the other hand, the study shows different species responses to warming. Of the 193 species included, 71 relatively warm-water species are now more common in the northern seas, while 23 species that were previously more common in the study area are now less common.

However, the study also suggests that the expansion of some species in the Arctic may be well-adapted to rising temperatures. Among the relatively warm species on the rise, there are several species of great commercial interest, such as the common cod (Gadus morhua). In contrast, according to the study, most of the degraded Arctic species are not fished on a large scale, although they may play an important ecological role, such as arctic cod (Arctogadus Glacier).

“Changes in the frequency of occurrence of species, sometimes facilitated by high temperatures and sometimes not, can lead to a reconfiguration of ecological interactions and, therefore, may cause cause changes in the structure and function of the entire ecosystem,” warns Marta Collresearcher at ICM-CSIC and co-author of the study.

Studies like these are urgently needed, as they can contribute to the design of more effective conservation and management strategies. For this reason, for future research, the researchers will further investigate the ecosystem-level changes that could be caused by the increase in temperature in the polar regions. The possible impacts on fisheries protection and management measures that these changes may have will also be analysed.


Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences




Experimental study




Three decades of increased fish biodiversity across the northeastern Atlantic and arctic oceans

From EurekAlert!


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