Marine Community Composition Shifts in Predictable Ways in Warming Oceans


Global simulations suggest plankton and fish species are showing resilience to climate change by going deeper underwater or moving to higher latitudes.

Anticipating changes in community composition in response to warming is challenging because species respond differently and the interactions change between them. However, a new study published in Nature Climate Change shows how changes in marine communities tightly follow ocean warming as the number and abundance of warm-water species increase whereas those of cold-water species decrease.

“Identifying aspects of community change that can be monitored and forecasted is crucial to better inform management to environmental changes,” explains Jorge García Molinos of Hokkaido University’s Arctic Research Center, one of the authors of this study.

Led by Professor Michael Burrows of the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), an international team of researchers from the UK, Japan, Australia, USA, Germany, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand analysed three million records of thousands of species from standardized international surveys dating back to 1985 to assess how ocean warming is affecting the composition of fish and plankton communities across the northern hemisphere in relation to the thermal tolerances of their constituent species.

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