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Future vulnerability of marine biodiversity compared with contemporary and past changes

Abstract

Many studies have implied significant effects of global climate change on marine life. Setting these alterations into the context of historical natural change has not been attempted so far, however. Here, using a theoretical framework, we estimate the sensitivity of marine pelagic biodiversity to temperature change and evaluate its past (mid-Pliocene and Last Glacial Maximum (LGM)), contemporaneous (1960–2013) and future (2081–2100; 4 scenarios of warming) vulnerability. Our biodiversity reconstructions were highly correlated to real data for several pelagic taxa for the contemporary and the past (LGM and mid-Pliocene) periods. Our results indicate that local species loss will be a prominent phenomenon of climate warming in permanently stratified regions, and that local species invasion will prevail in temperate and polar biomes under all climate change scenarios. Although a small amount of warming under the RCP2.6 scenario is expected to have a minor influence on marine pelagic biodiversity, moderate warming (RCP4.5) will increase by threefold the changes already observed over the past 50 years. Of most concern is that severe warming (RCP6.0 and 8.5) will affect marine pelagic biodiversity to a greater extent than temperature changes that took place between either the LGM or the mid-Pliocene and today, over an area of between 50 (RCP6.0: 46.9–52.4%) and 70% (RCP8.5: 69.4–73.4%) of the global ocean.

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Figure 1: Large-scale spatial patterns in some biodiversity and climatic properties.
Figure 2: Expected sensitivity of biodiversity to a 2 °C increase in temperature.
Figure 3: Expected vulnerability of biodiversity to changes in annual SST.
Figure 4: Expected past and future mean vulnerability in biodiversity.

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Acknowledgements

This work was part of the regional project BIODIMAR and was also supported by the ‘Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique’ (CNRS) and the Research Programme CPER CLIMIBIO (Nord-Pas de Calais). 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 acknowledge the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making available their model output. We also thank D. Tittensor (Dalhousie University) and I. Rombouts (Lille University) for providing data sets on some marine taxonomic groups.

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G.B. conceived the study; G.B., V.R. and E.G. compiled the data; G.B. analysed the data. G.B., R.R.K., E.G., M.E. and V.R. discussed the results and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Grégory Beaugrand or Richard R. Kirby.

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Beaugrand, G., Edwards, M., Raybaud, V. et al. Future vulnerability of marine biodiversity compared with contemporary and past changes. Nature Clim Change 5, 695–701 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2650

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