Science & Tech

Arctic ecosystem could be disrupted by jellyfish invasion

Arctic ecosystem could be disrupted by jellyfish invasion

Arctic ecosystem could be disrupted by jellyfish invasion

iStockphoto by Getty Images

Jellyfish could threaten the Arctic ecosystem as they travel towards the North Pole.

Due to warming waters and sea ice melts, many species of jellyfish are travelling to the North Pole which could have devastating effects on the Arctic.

In an attempt to try and understand the "jellification" of the Arctic, a group of researchers combined several datasets on eight species of jellyfish. They then modelled how the range of each species would shift in the second half of this century in response to climate change.

“There are impacts on the ecosystem that we can barely predict,” warns Charlotte Havermans at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.

The lion's mane jellyfish - which can grow tentacles more than 30 metres long - had the largest predicted expansion with its range almost tripling in area. This species can directly compete with fish due to its size.

And existing analysis suggests this expansion has already started happening.

Havermans pointed to the fjords in Svalbard, Norway, where jellyfish have outcompeted cod and in turn disrupting fisheries. “It can really take over and then there are almost no fish in there,” said Havermans.

In recent years, other reports of surging jellyfish numbers have raised concern about the wider "jellification" of the world's oceans. However, due to the lack of data it is hard to identify clear trends, according to Havermans.

Christopher Lynam, at the UK Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, has previously stated the impact of this expansion will depend on how surrounding organisms respond.

He argued the added competition could prove detrimental to some species but for predators such as the spiny dogfish, the arrival of jellyfish could provide a gelatinous source of food.

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