Projecting future distribution of the seagrass Zostera noltii under global warming and sea level rise

Mireia Valle, Guillem Chust, Andrea del Campo, Mary S. Wisz, Steffen M. Olsen, Joxe Mikel Garmendia, Ángel Borja

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In future decades, coastal ecosystems are expected to be exposed to increased risk of experiencing adverse consequences related to climate change, exacerbated by human induced pressures. The seagrass Zostera noltii forms meadows mainly within the intertidal zone, leading it to be particularly vulnerable to seawater temperature increase and sea level rise (SLR). Considering the presently declining situation and the predicted scenarios of increasing seawater temperature and SLR by the end of the 21st century, we assessed the response of Z. noltii to climate change (i) accounting for changes in seawater temperature at its entire biogeographical range level; and (ii) under SLR scenarios at estuary level (Oka estuary, Basque Country, south-eastern Bay of Biscay). Objectives were addressed coupling habitat suitability models with climate change simulations. By the end of the 21st century, seawater temperature increase will trigger a northward distributional shift of 888. km in the suitable habitat of the species, and a retreat of southernmost populations. The loss of southernmost populations due to climate change may imply future conservation problems. In contrast, SLR and derived changes in current velocities are expected to induce the landward migration of the species in the Oka estuary, increasing the available suitable intertidal areas (14-18%) to limits imposed by anthropogenic barriers. This modelling approach could lead to an advanced understanding of the species' response to climate change effects; moreover, the information generated might support conservation actions towards the sites where the habitat would remain suitable for the species under climate change. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBiological Conservation
Issue number20
Pages (from-to)74-85
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Climate model
  • Global warming
  • Habitat suitability models
  • Hydromorphological model
  • Projections
  • Sea level rise
  • Seawater surface temperature
  • anthropogenic effect
  • community response
  • conservation management
  • ecological modeling
  • future prospect
  • global warming
  • habitat management
  • intertidal community
  • sea level change
  • sea surface temperature
  • seagrass
  • twenty first century
  • vulnerability
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Basque Country [Spain]
  • Bay of Biscay
  • Bizkaia
  • Oka Estuary
  • Spain
  • Basque Country Spain, Europe Palearctic region
  • Bay of Biscay North East Atlantic, North Atlantic Atlantic Ocean
  • Oka estuary North East Atlantic, North Atlantic Atlantic Ocean
  • sea level rise
  • seawater temperature
  • species distribution
  • species habitat suitability
  • Monocotyledones Angiospermae Spermatophyta Plantae (Angiosperms, Monocots, Plants, Spermatophytes, Vascular Plants) - Potamogetonaceae [25400] Zostera noltii species seagrass common protected species
  • 00512, General biology - Conservation and resource management
  • 04500, Mathematical biology and statistical methods
  • 07502, Ecology: environmental biology - General and methods
  • 07504, Ecology: environmental biology - Bioclimatology and biometeorology
  • 07506, Ecology: environmental biology - Plant
  • 07510, Ecology: environmental biology - Oceanography and limnology
  • 10515, Biophysics - Biocybernetics
  • 50528, Botany: general and systematic - Floristics and distribution
  • Computational Biology
  • Conservation
  • Ecology, Environmental Sciences
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Population Studies
  • climate change simulation mathematical and computer techniques
  • habitat suitability model mathematical and computer techniques
  • Biogeography
  • Climatology
  • Estuarine Ecology
  • Models and Simulations
  • Wildlife Management


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