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Impacts of climate change on Tasmania’s Southern Rock Lobster

IMAS researchers have discovered that the direct and indirect effects of climate change may pose new challenges to the Tasmanian Southern Rock Lobster fishery, stressing the need to reduce environmental and fishing pressures.

A new paper, published in Scientific Reports, has shown that while Tasmania's Southern Rock Lobster can acclimatise in some ways to ocean warming, they may be disadvantaged by the higher temperature tolerances of Eastern Rock Lobster.

Eastern Rock Lobsters are extending their range from mainland waters due to the warming and southern extension of the East Australian Current.

“We found that Southern Rock Lobster can increase their resilience to warmer temperatures by reducing basic energy consumption and sustaining their capacity for maximum metabolic performance,” lead author and IMAS Research Fellow Dr Michael Oellermann said.

“This supports lobsters during energy-demanding activities like hunting, self-defence or avoiding predators.”

However, Eastern Rock Lobster mirrors those abilities, along with higher tolerances to warmer waters.

“It means the native lobster, which cannot shift its range further south due to a lack of coastal habitat beyond Tasmania, is less resilient than their eastern counterparts in rapidly warming waters,” Dr Oellermann said.

“This will be a disadvantage during potential climate driven competition with the increasingly abundant Eastern Rock Lobster – relating to prey, habitat, predation, larval recruitment, disease and fishing pressure.”

The researchers' findings are illustrated in the graphic below.
The German Research Foundation and the Australian Research Council  provided funding to this research.


Images:

  • Top right and centre left Southern Rock Lobster Jasus edwardsii. (Centre photo: Antonia Cooper)
  • Centre right: Eastern Rock Lobster Sagmariasus verreauxi. (Photo: Damian Brockie via Redmap - redmap.org.au)
  • Bottom: Graphic illustrating the impacts of ocean warming and competition with Eastern Rock Lobster on Southern Rock Lobster. (Image: Stacey McCormack)

Published on 5 August 2022

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
5 August, 2022