Letter | Published:

Long-term responses of North Atlantic calcifying plankton to climate change

Nature Climate Change volume 3, pages 263267 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

The global increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is potentially threatening marine biodiversity in two ways. First, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere are causing global warming1. Second, carbon dioxide is altering sea water chemistry, making the ocean more acidic2. Although temperature has a cardinal influence on all biological processes from the molecular to the ecosystem level3, acidification might impair the process of calcification or exacerbate dissolution of calcifying organisms4. Here, we show however that North Atlantic calcifying plankton primarily responded to climate-induced changes in temperatures during the period 1960–2009, overriding the signal from the effects of ocean acidification. We provide evidence that foraminifers, coccolithophores, both pteropod and non-pteropod molluscs and echinoderms exhibited an abrupt shift circa 1996 at a time of a substantial increase in temperature5 and that some taxa exhibited a poleward movement in agreement with expected biogeographical changes under sea temperature warming6,7. Although acidification may become a serious threat to marine calcifying organisms, our results suggest that over the study period the primary driver of North Atlantic calcifying plankton was oceanic temperature.

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Acknowledgements

This work was part of the EU-funded FP7 European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA) and the regional project BIODIMAR. We thank past and present SAHFOS workers and the international funding consortium supporting the CPR survey. Their dedication has made this unique time-series possible. We also thank J-P. Gattuso for his help with pH and pCO2 data.

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Affiliations

  1. CNRS, Laboratoire d’Océanologie et de Géosciences UMR LOG CNRS 8187, Université des Sciences et Technologies Lille 1—BP 80, 62930 Wimereux, France

    • Gregory Beaugrand
    •  & Eric Goberville
  2. Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK

    • Gregory Beaugrand
    • , Abigail McQuatters-Gollop
    •  & Martin Edwards
  3. Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK

    • Martin Edwards

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Contributions

G.B. and A.M-G. conceived the study; G.B., A.M-G. and E.G. compiled the data; G.B. and E.G. analysed the data. G.B., A.M-G., M.E. and E.G. wrote the paper.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gregory Beaugrand.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1753

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