Why Climate Change Means More Jellyfish Stings for Ocean Swimmers - Latest Global News

Why Climate Change Means More Jellyfish Stings for Ocean Swimmers

Unlike many other sea creatures, jellyfish are the winners of climate change.

In a sign of the poor health of the world’s oceans, new research shows that jellyfish are moving further into the Arctic Ocean and will dominate these areas as water temperatures rise.

Jellyfish stings have become increasingly common in recent years and are expected to get even worse for coastal swimmers, research from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven, Germany, shows.

Using a computer model, the researchers exposed eight Arctic jellyfish species to the rising water temperatures expected due to climate change.

The result was, with one exception, that all examined species were able to significantly expand their habitat towards the Arctic between 1950 and 2014 and between 2050 and 2099.

According to the study published in the journal Limnology and Oceanography, the lion’s mane jellyfish – one of the largest stinging jellyfish – is also among those spreading north in large numbers. “It could almost triple its habitat,” says AWI marine biologist Charlotte Havermans.

Only one of the species studied (Sminthea arctica) recorded a decline (by 15%) as it retreats to colder depths when temperatures rise.

Jellyfish are also likely to benefit from overfishing, and if climate change puts even greater strain on marine life, cnidarians (which include jellyfish) can often outcompete competitors like fish, says lead author Dmitrii Pantiukhin.

On Spitsbergen, the helmet jellyfish has already conquered an entire fjord, emphasized Havermans. “Many jellyfish feed on fish larvae and eggs, delaying or preventing the recovery of pressured fish populations that are also typically heavily managed by humans,” says Pantiukhin.

Scientists have already sounded alarm bells about the threat of “squeezing” of the world’s oceans.

This is also reflected in the fact that people in the Mediterranean have been more frequently affected by jellyfish stings in the last 15 years, said Havermans. However, it is still unclear what impact the northward advance of cnidarians will have on Arctic fish stocks.

“There are many indications that important Arctic fish species such as polar cod, whose larvae and eggs are often eaten by jellyfish, will come under even greater pressure,” said Havermans.

According to researchers in Germany, the lion's mane jellyfish - one of the largest stinging jellyfish - is one of those spreading northwards in large numbers, according to researchers in Germany.  Thomas Müller/dpa

According to researchers in Germany, the lion’s mane jellyfish – one of the largest stinging jellyfish – is one of those spreading northwards in large numbers, according to researchers in Germany. Thomas Müller/dpa

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