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Addressing the challenges of overexploitation, invasive species, and climate change to ocean sustainability

March 3, 2023 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Speaker: Dr. Nicola Smith
Liber Ero Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Changing Ocean Research Unit
Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries

AERL Theatre/Zoom. Please RSVP: https://oceans.ubc.ca/news-and-events/iof-seminars/weekly-seminars/ 

Humans are changing Earth’s climate and ecological systems at unprecedented rates. Major threats to the diversity of life include overexploitation, invasive species, and climate change. Dr. Smith’s research aims to study these three global drivers of environmental change as they pertain to ocean sustainability, where our understanding of the effects of these stressors lags substantially behind the terrestrial biome. Using the Bahamas as a case study, she reconstructs historical marine fisheries catches up to almost 200 years ago. The results highlight that overexploitation has largely reduced the biomass and catches of marine ecosystems, and progressively lowered the baselines for marine resource management, sometimes even leading to fishery collapse and species extinction. Also, using the Indo-Pacific lionfish invasion on Caribbean coral reefs as a model system, she explores the concept of non-consumptive or ‘fear effects’ and show that native predators can limit the success of this notorious invader through this non-lethal process. Dr. Smith’s current research delves into the interaction between invasive species and climate change. Here, she uses a global meta-analysis to quantify the magnitude and direction of the effect of climate change on marine invasive species. Dr. Smith shows that there are global hotspots for marine invasions, climate change generally facilitates marine invasions, and the climate stressor that elicits the largest response in invasive species depends on temporal scale. The application of ecological knowledge on environmental drivers of change generated from her research can be used to explore opportunities for effective ocean management.