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Originally published September 23, 2012 at 8:48 PM | Page modified September 23, 2012 at 8:48 PM

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Climate change to alter marine habitat, study says

The top ocean predators in the North Pacific could lose as much as 35 percent of their habitat by the end of the century as a result of climate change, according to a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The Washington Post

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The top ocean predators in the North Pacific could lose as much as 35 percent of their habitat by the end of the century as a result of climate change, according to a study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The analysis, conducted by a team of 11 American and Canadian researchers, took data compiled from tracking 4,300 open-ocean animals over a decade and looked at how predicted temperature changes would alter the areas they depend on for food and shelter.

Some habitats could shift by as much as 600 miles while others will remain largely unchanged, the scientists found, and these changes could affect species in different ways.

For some key species already facing threats — including blue whales and loggerhead turtles — this will make the food that sustains them more elusive.

"They'll have to travel farther and farther every year just to get to their food," said Elliott Hazen, the study's lead author and a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Some species with a relatively narrow temperature range — such as salmon, blue sharks and mako sharks — fared poorly as well.

At the same time, some highly mobile species such as tuna and seabirds may benefit from the changes because they will either be able to adjust more easily or have wider foraging opportunities.

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