A new method for predicting the response of ecosystems to marine heatwaves developed by an international collaboration – ScienceDaily


Ocean heat waves, induced by climate change, are more and more frequent and intense in the world. While we know that heat waves kill marine organisms and have devastating effects on ecosystems, there is currently no way to predict these effects or help ecosystems adapt.

An international team of marine scientists from Hong Kong, Japan and Canada, led by Dr Bayden D RUSSELL (Associate Director of the Swire Institute of Marine Science and Associate Professor of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong), comprising Dr Ben HARVEY (University of Tsukuba), Dr Katie MARSHALL and Professor Christopher HARLEY (University of British Columbia), have developed a new framework to enable us not only to understand the effects of marine heat waves, but potentially predict their effects before they happen. This new method will allow researchers around the world to identify key biological traits of marine species in their region and predict how they are likely to be stressed by heat waves. Most importantly, using this trait-based approach will allow managers and policy makers to identify key species that are needed to support ecosystem functioning and develop strategies to help mitigate damage from heat waves.

Identifying Survivors: The Future of Marine Ecosystems

Marine heat waves are discrete warming events in which marine waters heat up to 6 ° C above normal and can last from a few days to several months. Such high temperatures cause stress to animals and algae, often killing them and in some cases causing autonomy contractions to cooler waters. At the same time, tropical species will move through these colder waters warming and changing these ecosystems, sometimes irreversibly. The authors identified that key functional traits, such as heat tolerance, dispersal ability, feeding habits, and behavioral traits potentially affecting ecosystem characteristics, could be used to more precisely identify both how species will be affected by heat waves and how that would change marine ecosystems.

According to the authors, identifying the functional traits of resident flora and fauna assemblages is crucial for assessing the vulnerability of marine ecosystems to change and for designing effective management, conservation and restoration plans. Until now, no framework existed to predict the potential effect of marine heat waves and prepare for their appearance. This new approach makes it possible to identify key species that support complex ecosystems, such as algae, corals, grazing fish or sea urchins, and to adapt management to these species to improve resistance to heat waves, recovery after these and ultimately supporting the function of coastal areas. ecosystems.

“Unlike the current approach that is used to project the impacts of marine heat waves, the integration of trait-based approaches at multiple timescales allows us to use measurable and ecologically significant characteristics of organisms, individual physiological responses to biological interactions, to predict ecology patterns in space and time, “said Dr Bayden Russell.” We can now better understand how extreme events will determine patterns of geographic distribution, local abundance and the functional diversity of important species. “

“Using this approach will allow more targeted management of marine species to improve the resilience of communities to climate change,” added Dr Ben Harvey.

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Materials provided by The University of Hong Kong. Note: Content can be changed for style and length.


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