Climate change drives poleward increases and equatorward declines in marine species

Marine environments have increased in temperature by an average of 1°C since preindustrial (1850) times [1]. Given that species ranges are closely allied to physiological thermal tolerances in marine organisms [2], it may therefore be expected that ocean warming would lead to abundance increases at poleward range edges, and abundance declines towards the equator [3]. Here we report a global analysis of abundance tends of 304 widely distributed marine species over the last century, across a range of taxonomic groups from phytoplankton to fish and marine mammals. Specifically, using a literature database we investigate the extent that the direction and strength of longterm species abundance changes depend on the sampled location within the latitudinal range of species. Our results show that abundance increases have been most prominent where sampling has taken place at the poleward edges of species ranges, while abundance declines have been most prominent where sampling has taken place at the equatorward edge of species ranges. These data provide evidence of omnipresent large-scale changes in abundance of marine species consistent with warming over the last century, and suggest that adaptation has not provided a buffer against the negative effects of warmer conditions at the equatorward extent of species ranges. On the basis of these results we suggest that projected sea temperature increases of up to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels by 2050 [4] will continue to drive latitudinal abundance shifts in marine species, including those of importance for coastal livelihoods.


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Authors: Hastings, Reuben, Rutterford, Louise A., Freer, Jennifer ORCIDORCID record for Jennifer Freer, Collins, Rupert A, Simpson, Stephen D., Genner, Martin J.

On this site: Jennifer Freer
1 April, 2020
Current Biology / 30
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