Addressing climate-driven changes in marine systems requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science

Gretta T Pecl 1,2

1 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, Tasmania, Australia.  E-mail:

2Centre for Marine Socioecology, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


Climate change is driving a pervasive global redistribution of the planet’s species, with manifest implications from genes to ecosystems across multiple temporal and spatial scales. Species redistribution defies conservation paradigms that focus on restoring systems to a baseline and challenges management strategies, which are often static and based on human-dictated boundaries drawn in the past. Likewise, changes in distribution of marine resources create difficulties, particularly when species cross jurisdictional boundaries and where historical catch rates and assessment processes may no longer be appropriate. Moreover, we are still a long way from understanding the suite of mechanisms and processes underlying the high variation in rate and magnitude of shifts. Building on that uncertainty, we have even less understanding of how species redistribution will drive changes in ecological communities and further complicate aspirations of ecosystem-based management. Climate-driven species redistribution therefore presents intriguing ecological challenges to unravel, as well as fundamental philosophical questions and urgent issues related to conservation, food security, Indigenous and local livelihoods, and many other aspects of human well-being. This presentation will highlight some of the key questions for climate-driven species redistribution in marine systems in the context of ecology, conservation, natural resource management and social science. Understanding range shifts from ecological, physiological, genetic and biogeographical perspectives is essential for informing and designing conservation and natural resource management strategies for a changing future. However, for species redistribution research to support development of relevant adaptive strategies and policy decisions adequately, studies need to take an interdisciplinary approach and must recognise and value stakeholders.


Gretta Pecl is a Professor of marine ecology at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), and the incoming Director of the Centre for Marine Socioecology (CMS), both based in Tasmania. She has broad interdisciplinary research interests and a passion for science engagement and communication with the public. Much of her current research centres around understanding climate change impacts in marine systems, and how our marine fisheries and aquaculture industries and coastal communities may best adapt to these changes. Gretta’s research has a particular focus on detecting and understanding the variation in rate and magnitude of climate-driven species redistribution. She developed and leads the very successful National citizen science project Redmap Australia, the Range Extension Database and mapping project (, which invites fishers and divers around the coastline to help monitor changes in species distributions in Australian seas. Candidate or ‘model’ range-shifting species for her experimental work are identified through the out-of-range species observations reported to Redmap, and the citizen science program is then in turn used to disseminate results of this research and other marine climate change projects to the general community. She was the instigator and co-convenor of the inaugural ‘Species on the Move’ conference held in Hobart in 2016 (, and is also currently working with international colleagues on a Global Network of Marine Hotspots to facilitate learning and communication among the world’s most rapidly warming ocean regions. Gretta is an Australian Research Council ‘Future Fellow’ and the Editor-in-Chief of the journal Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries.

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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