Computing, Health and Science
Natural Sciences, Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
We review how intertidal biodiversity is responding to globally driven climate change, focusing on long-term data from rocky shores in the British Isles. Physical evidence of warming around the British Isles is presented and, whilst there has been considerable fluctuation, sea surface temperatures are at the highest levels recorded, surpassing previous warm periods (i.e. late 1950s). Examples are given of species that have been advancing or retreating polewards over the last 50 to 100 yr. On rocky shores, the extent of poleward movement is idiosyncratic and dependent upon life history characteristics, dispersal capabilities and habitat requirements. More southern, warm water species have been recorded advancing than northern, cold water species retreating. Models have been developed to predict likely assemblage composition based on future environmental scenarios. We present qualitative and quantitative forecasts to explore the functional consequences of changes in the identity, abundance and species richness of gastropod grazers and foundation species such as barnacles and canopy-forming algae. We forecast that the balance of primary producers and secondary consumers is likely to change along wave exposure gradients matching changes occurring with latitude, thereby shifting the balance between export and import of primary production. Increases in grazer and sessile invertebrate diversity are likely to be accompanied by decreasing primary production by large canopy-forming fucoids. The reasons for such changes are discussed in the context of emerging theory on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.
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