Unanticipated biological changes and global warming

Beaugrand, G 2012 Unanticipated biological changes and global warming. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 445. 293-301.

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Evidence of global warming is now unequivocal, and studies suggest that it has started to influence natural systems of the planet, including the oceans. However, in the marine environment, it is well-known that species and ecosystems can also be influenced by natural sources of large-scale hydro-climatological variability. The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) was negatively correlated with the mean abundance of one of the subarctic key species Calanus finmarchicus in the North Sea. This correlation was thought to have broken down in 1996, however, the timing has never been tested statistically. The present study revisits this unanticipated change and reveals that the correlation did not break down in 1996 as originally proposed but earlier, at the time of an abrupt ecosystem shift in the North Sea in the 1980s. Furthermore, the analyses demonstrate that the correlation between the NAO and C. finmarchicus abundance is modulated by the thermal regime of the North Sea, which in turn covaries positively with global temperature anomalies. This study thereby provides evidence that global climate change is likely to alter some empirical relationships found in the past between species abundance or the ecosystem state and large-scale natural sources of hydro-climatological variability. A theory is proposed to explain how this might happen. These unanticipated changes, also called ‘surprises’ in climatic research, are a direct consequence of the complexity of both climatic and biological systems. In this period of rapid climate change, it is therefore hazardous to integrate meteo-oceanic indices such as the NAO in models used in the management of living resources, as it has been sometimes attempted in the past.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Divisions: Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science
Depositing User: Miss Gemma Brice
Date made live: 26 Mar 2014 14:09
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2017 16:10
URI: https://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/5666

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