Climate Change and Marine Food-Web Structures

Changing climates affect biodiversity in a number of different ways including range shifts, reorganizing local communities, and even extinctions. Marine species are not just affected by abiotic conditions such as temperature and salinity. They are connected in intricate food-web networks through competition, predation, parasitism, etc. If one species is affected, it will inevitably affect many others.  

Data resources used via GBIF : 131,645 species occurrences
Neptune Grass (Posidonia oceanica)

Neptune Grass (Posidonia oceanica) by Luca Tringali via iNaturalist. Photo licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Changing climates affect biodiversity in a number of different ways including range shifts, reorganizing local communities, and even extinctions. Marine species are not just affected by abiotic conditions such as temperature and salinity. They are connected in intricate food-web networks through competition, predation, parasitism, etc. If one species is affected, it will inevitably affect many others.  

Focusing on the Gulf of Gabes in the southern Mediterranean, the authors of this study predict the impacts of climate change on species networks by combining climatic envelopes derived from GBIF-mediated occurrences with a niche food web model. Their results forecast range shifts for at least half the species under future scenarios. 14 species may be lost altogether, and with them 414 potential biotic links. The study is an important reminder that species communities are far from just a simple collection of independent species, and that this should be considered when modelling distributions.  

Citations

Hattab T, Leprieur F, Lasram FBR, Gravel D, Loc’h FL and Albouy C (2016) Forecasting fine-scale changes in the food-web structure of coastal marine communities under climate change. Ecography. Wiley-Blackwell. Available at doi:10.1111/ecog.01937

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