HONOLULU (KHON2) — Humpback whales are shown to migrate near tropical coastal waters like Hawaii’s.
New research shows they may be saying aloha to Hawaii due to climate change.
A new paper published in Frontiers in Marine Science by a team of researchers including three University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate students shared humpback whales may one day avoid Hawaii waters due to climate change rising and the rise in greenhouse gasses.
Humpback whales are known to give birth to their calves in Hawaii’s tropical waters. Typically, sea surface temperatures range between 70-82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whales are known to be creatures of habit returning to the same sites annually.
Hannah von Hammerstein, Renee Setter and Martin van Aswegen with UH Manoa report anthropogenic climate change is warming the oceans at unprecedented rates.
They report worst case scenarios saying in 2100 67% of humpback whale breeding grounds will surpass critical sea surface temperature.
A “middle-of-the-road” scenario would need global and international institutions working toward emission mitigation goals to make that estimated number fall to 35% of breeding grounds in 2100.
“We expected to see critical warming in some of the breeding grounds, but the number of critically affected areas was a surprise,” said von Hammerstein. “While the results of the study are daunting, they also highlight the differences between the two emission scenarios and what still can be won by implementing emission mitigation measures.”
Setter added, “It’s really crucial that we try to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and really try to stay on that ‘middle-of-the-road’ greenhouse gas emissions scenario at the very least, just so that we can save as many of those breeding grounds as possible from surpassing that critical temperature threshold.”
They also hope their findings may be an incentive for policymakers to work toward reducing emissions. Not just in Hawaii but also on an international level.
“Our findings provide yet another example of what is to come with anthropogenic climate change, with humpback whales representing merely one impacted species,” van Aswegen said. “Improving our understanding of how ecosystems are going to change is critical for the effective and timely implementation of mitigative measures.”
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To read the full article on their findings head to University of Hawaii’s website.