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Climate change impacts on marine ecosystems through the lens of the size spectrum
Heneghan, Ryan F. (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals)
Hatton, Ian A. (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals)
Galbraith, Eric D. (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals)

Date: 2019
Abstract: Climate change is a complex global issue that is driving countless shifts in the structure and function of marine ecosystems. To better understand these shifts, many processes need to be considered, yet they are often approached from incompatible perspectives. This article reviews one relatively simple, integrated perspective: the abundance-size spectrum. We introduce the topic with a brief review of some of the ways climate change is expected to impact the marine ecosystem according to complex numerical models while acknowledging the limits to understanding posed by complex models. We then review how the size spectrum offers a simple conceptual alternative, given its regular power law size-frequency distribution when viewed on sufficiently broad scales. We further explore how anticipated physical aspects of climate change might manifest themselves through changes in the elevation, slope and regularity of the size spectrum, exposing mechanistic questions about integrated ecosystem structure, as well as how organism physiology and ecological interactions respond to multiple climatic stressors. Despite its application by ecosystem modellers and fisheries scientists, the size spectrum perspective is not widely used as a tool for monitoring ecosystem adaptation to climate change, providing a major opportunity for further research. Given the millions of species living in the global ocean, their diverse life strategies and inter-relationships, and the multiple dimensions of anthropogenic stressors, it can be extremely challenging to grasp the overall impact of climate change on marine ecosystems. In spite of this great complexity, observations have shown that ecosystem size structures tend to be highly regular, with many small and few large individuals, decreasing in abundance with size according to a simple power law distribution. This simple power law relationship is known as the abundance-size spectrum. The size spectrum encompasses all species and has long been known to be among the most robust large-scale regularities in aquatic ecology. As such, it provides a unique lens through which to integrate biotic changes from multiple aspects of climatic change. Below, we review the physical, biogeochemical and ecological impacts projected by complex numerical models for the remainder of this century, as an illustration of current expectations. We then turn to the size spectrum as a more intuitive, readily grasped framework that provides a bird's eye view of the ecosystem and helps to simplify the expectations, as well as revealing shortfalls in mechanistic understanding.
Note: Unidad de excelencia María de Maeztu MdM-2015-0552
Note: Número d'acord de subvenció EC/H2020/682602
Note: Número d'acord de subvenció MICINN/PCIN-2017-115
Note: Número d'acord de subvenció MINECO/MDM-2015-0552
Rights: Aquest document està subjecte a una llicència d'ús Creative Commons. Es permet la reproducció total o parcial, la distribució, la comunicació pública de l'obra i la creació d'obres derivades, fins i tot amb finalitats comercials, sempre i quan es reconegui l'autoria de l'obra original. Creative Commons
Language: Anglès.
Document: article ; recerca ; publishedVersion
Subject: Climate change ; Ecosystem measures ; Marine ecosystem ; Metabolism ; Primary production ; Size spectrum
Published in: Emerging topics in life sciences, Vol. 3, issue 2 (May 2019) , p. 233-243, ISSN 2397-8554

DOI: 10.1042/ETLS20190042


11 p, 2.6 MB

The record appears in these collections:
Research literature > UAB research groups literature > Research Centres and Groups (scientific output) > Experimental sciences > Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA)
Research literature > UAB research groups literature > Research Centres and Groups (scientific output) > Experimental sciences > Integrated Earth System Dynamics Laboratory (IESD)
Articles > Research articles
Articles > Published articles

 Record created 2019-06-06, last modified 2019-07-08



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