Living on the edge of two changing worlds: forecasting the responses of rocky intertidal ecosystems to climate change
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences, Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research
Long-term monitoring shows that the poleward range edges of intertidal biota have shifted by as much as 50 km per decade, faster than most recorded shifts of terrestrial species. Although most studies have concentrated on species-range edges, recent work emphasizes how modifying factors such as regional differences in the timing of low tide can overwhelm large-scale climatic gradients, leading to a mosaic of environmental stress. We discuss how changes in the mean and variability in climatic regimes, as modified by local and regional factors, can lead to complex patterns of species distribution rather than simple range shifts. We describe how ecological forecasting may be used to generate explicit hypotheses regarding the likely impacts of different climatic change scenarios on the distribution of intertidal species and how related hindcasting methods can be used to evaluate changes that have already been detected. These hypotheses can then be tested over a hierarchy of temporal and spatial scales using coupled field and laboratory-based approaches.