Projections of climate-driven changes in tuna vertical habitat based on species-specific differences in blood oxygen affinity

K. A.S. Mislan, Curtis A. Deutsch, Richard W. Brill, John P. Dunne, Jorge Louis Sarmiento

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Oxygen concentrations are hypothesized to decrease in many areas of the ocean as a result of anthropogenically driven climate change, resulting in habitat compression for pelagic animals. The oxygen partial pressure, pO2, at which blood is 50% saturated (P50) is a measure of blood oxygen affinity and a gauge of the tolerance of animals for low ambient oxygen. Tuna species display a wide range of blood oxygen affinities (i.e., P50 values) and therefore may be differentially impacted by habitat compression as they make extensive vertical movements to forage on subdaily time scales. To project the effects of end-of-the-century climate change on tuna habitat, we calculate tuna P50 depths (i.e., the vertical position in the water column at which ambient pO2 is equal to species-specific blood P50 values) from 21st century Earth System Model (ESM) projections included in the fifth phase of the Climate Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP5). Overall, we project P50 depths to shoal, indicating likely habitat compression for tuna species due to climate change. Tunas that will be most impacted by shoaling are Pacific and southern bluefin tunas—habitat compression is projected for the entire geographic range of Pacific bluefin tuna and for the spawning region of southern bluefin tuna. Vertical shifts in P50 depths will potentially influence resource partitioning among Pacific bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, and skipjack tunas in the northern subtropical and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. By establishing linkages between tuna physiology and environmental conditions, we provide a mechanistic basis to project the effects of anthropogenic climate change on tuna habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4019-4028
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Environmental Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Chemistry


  • CMIP5
  • Thunnus
  • bigeye
  • bluefin
  • deoxygenation
  • hypoxia
  • skipjack
  • yellowfin


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