reference : Long-term empirical evidence of ocean warming leading to tropicalization of fish communities, increased herbivory, and loss of kelp

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Bibliographic fields
reftype Journal Article
Abstract Most studies of the impact of global warming focus on the direct physiological impacts of climate change. However, global warming is shifting the distribution of many species and leading to novel interactions between previously separated species that have the potential to transform entire ecological communities. This study shows that an increase in the proportion of warmwater species (“tropicalization”) as oceans warm is increasing fish herbivory in kelp forests, contributing to their decline and subsequent persistence in alternate “kelp-free” states. These tropical and subtropical herbivores are increasingly impacting temperate algal communities worldwide, posing a significant threat to the long-term stability of these iconic ecosystems and the valuable services they provide.Some of the most profound effects of climate change on ecological communities are due to alterations in species interactions rather than direct physiological effects of changing environmental conditions. Empirical evidence of historical changes in species interactions within climate-impacted communities is, however, rare and difficult to obtain. Here, we demonstrate the recent disappearance of key habitat-forming kelp forests from a warming tropical–temperate transition zone in eastern Australia. Using a 10-y video dataset encompassing a 0.6 °C warming period, we show how herbivory increased as kelp gradually declined and then disappeared. Concurrently, fish communities from sites where kelp was originally abundant but subsequently disappeared became increasingly dominated by tropical herbivores. Feeding assays identified two key tropical/subtropical herbivores that consumed transplanted kelp within hours at these sites. There was also a distinct increase in the abundance of fishes that consume epilithic algae, and much higher bite rates by this group at sites without kelp, suggesting a key role for these fishes in maintaining reefs in kelp-free states by removing kelp recruits. Changes in kelp abundance showed no direct relationship to seawater temperatures over the decade and were also unrelated to other measured abiotic factors (nutrients and storms). Our results show that warming-mediated increases in fish herbivory pose a significant threat to kelp-dominated ecosystems in Australia and, potentially, globally.
Author Vergés, Adriana; Doropoulos, Christopher; Malcolm, Hamish A.; Skye, Mathew; Garcia-Pizá, Marina; Marzinelli, Ezequiel M.; Campbell, Alexandra H.; Ballesteros, Enric; Hoey, Andrew S.; Vila-Concejo, Ana; Bozec, Yves-Marie; Steinberg, Peter D.
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1610725113
Issue 48
Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Pages 13791-13796
Title Long-term empirical evidence of ocean warming leading to tropicalization of fish communities, increased herbivory, and loss of kelp
Volume 113
Year 2016
Bibliographic identifiers
_record_number 25670
_uuid e446fc60-95d1-4783-8804-baebd65dec1a