Global imprint of climate change on marine life

Elvira S. Poloczanska, Christopher J. Brown, William J. Sydeman, Wolfgang Kiessling, David S. Schoeman, Pippa J. Moore, Keith Brander, John F. Bruno, Lauren B. Buckley, Michael T. Burrows, Carlos M. Duarte, Benjamin S. Halpern, Johnna Holding, Carrie V. Kappel, Mary I. O’Connor, John M. Pandolfi, Camille Parmesan, Franklin Schwing, Sarah Ann Thompson, Anthony J. Richardson

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Past meta-analyses of the response of marine organisms to climate change have examined a limited range of locations1,2,
taxonomic groups2–4 and/or biological responses5,6. This has precluded a robust overview of the effect of climate change
in the global ocean. Here, we synthesized all available studies of the consistency of marine ecological observations with
expectations under climate change. This yielded a metadatabase of 1,735 marine biological responses for which
either regional or global climate change was considered as a driver. Included were instances of marine taxa responding
as expected, in a manner inconsistent with expectations, and taxa demonstrating no response. From this database, 81–83%
of all observations for distribution, phenology, community composition, abundance, demography and calcification across
taxa and ocean basins were consistent with the expected impacts of climate change. Of the species responding to climate
change, rates of distribution shiftswere, on average, consistent with those required to track ocean surface temperature
changes. Conversely, we did not find a relationship between regional shifts in spring phenology and the seasonality of
temperature. Rates of observed shifts in species’ distributions and phenology are comparable to, or greater, than those for terrestrial systems
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)919-925
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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