Climate change undermines the global functioning of marine food webs

Hubert Du Pontavice*, Didier Gascuel, Gabriel Reygondeau, Aurore Maureaud, William W.L. Cheung

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Sea water temperature affects all biological and ecological processes that ultimately impact ecosystem functioning. In this study, we examine the influence of temperature on global biomass transfers from marine secondary production to fish stocks. By combining fisheries catches in all coastal ocean areas and life history traits of exploited marine species, we provide global estimates of two trophic transfer parameters which determine biomass flows in coastal marine food web: the trophic transfer efficiency and the biomass residence time in the food web. We find that biomass transfers in tropical ecosystems are less efficient and faster than in areas with cooler waters. In contrast, biomass transfers through the food web became faster and more efficient between 1950 and 2010. Using simulated changes in sea water temperature from three Earth system models, we project that the mean trophic transfer efficiency in coastal waters would decrease from 7.7% to 7.2% between 2010 and 2,100 under the ‘no effective mitigation’ Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP 8.5), while biomass residence time between trophic level 2 and 4 is projected to decrease from 2.7 to 2.3 year on average. Beyond the global trends, we show that the trophic transfer efficiencies and biomass residence times may vary substantially among ecosystem types and that the polar ecosystems may be the most impacted ecosystems. The detected and projected changes in mean trophic transfer efficiency and biomass residence time will undermine food web functioning. Our study provides quantitative understanding of temperature effects on trophodynamic of marine ecosystems under climate change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)1306-1318
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Biomass Flow
  • Biomass Residence Time
  • Climate Change
  • Ecosystem Modelling
  • Marine Food Web
  • Species Assemblage
  • Trophic Ecology
  • Trophic Transfer Efficiency

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