The role of continental shelf bathymetry in shaping marine range shifts in the face of climate change

Zoë J. Kitchel, Hailey M. Conrad, Rebecca L. Selden, Malin L. Pinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


As a consequence of anthropogenic climate change, marine species on continental shelves around the world are rapidly shifting deeper and poleward. However, whether these shifts deeper and poleward will allow species to access more, less, or equivalent amounts of continental shelf area and associated critical habitats remains unclear. By examining the proportion of seabed area at a range of depths for each large marine ecosystem (LME), we found that shelf area declined monotonically for 19% of LMEs examined. However, the majority exhibited a greater proportion of shelf area in mid-depths or across several depth ranges. By comparing continental shelf area across 2° latitudinal bands, we found that all coastlines exhibit multiple instances of shelf area expansion and contraction, which have the potential to promote or restrict poleward movement of marine species. Along most coastlines, overall shelf habitat increases or exhibits no significant change moving towards the poles. The exception is the Southern West Pacific, which experiences an overall loss of area with increasing latitude. Changes in continental shelf area availability across latitudes and depths are likely to affect the number of species local ecosystems can support. These geometric analyses help identify regions of conservation priority and ecological communities most likely to face attrition or expansion due to variations in available area.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5185-5199
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • continental shelf
  • depth
  • habitat gain
  • habitat loss
  • latitude
  • species area relationship
  • species distributions


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