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The effects of changing climate on faunal depth distributions determine winners and losers
Brown, A.; Thatje, S. (2015). The effects of changing climate on faunal depth distributions determine winners and losers. Glob. Chang. Biol. 21(1): 173-180.
In: Global Change Biology. Blackwell Publishers: Oxford. ISSN 1354-1013, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

    Climate change; Hydrostatic pressure; Oxygen; Physiology; Temperature; Marine
Author keywords
    Bathymetric; Fundamental ecological niche; Range shift

Authors  Top 
  • Brown, A.
  • Thatje, S.

    Changing climate is predicted to impact all depths of the global oceans, yet projections of range shifts in marine faunal distributions in response to changing climate seldom evaluate potential shifts in depth distribution. Marine ectotherms' thermal tolerance is limited by their ability to maintain aerobic metabolism (oxygen- and capacity-limited tolerance), and is functionally associated with their hypoxia tolerance. Shallow-water (<200 m depth) marine invertebrates and fishes demonstrate limited tolerance of increasing hydrostatic pressure (pressure exerted by the overlying mass of water), and hyperbaric (increased pressure) tolerance is proposed to depend on the ability to maintain aerobic metabolism, too. Here, we report significant correlation between the hypoxia thresholds and the hyperbaric thresholds of taxonomic groups of shallow-water fauna, suggesting that pressure tolerance is indeed oxygen limited. Consequently, it appears that the combined effects of temperature, pressure and oxygen concentration constrain the fundamental ecological niches (FENs) of marine invertebrates and fishes. Including depth in a conceptual model of oxygen- and capacity-limited FENs' responses to ocean warming and deoxygenation confirms previous predictions made based solely on consideration of the latitudinal effects of ocean warming (e.g. Cheung et al., 2009), that polar taxa are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with Arctic fauna experiencing the greatest FEN contraction. In contrast, the inclusion of depth in the conceptual model reveals for the first time that temperate fauna as well as tropical fauna may experience substantial FEN expansion with ocean warming and deoxygenation, rather than FEN maintenance or contraction suggested by solely considering latitudinal range shifts.

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