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Disentangling diverse responses to climate change among global marine ecosystem models


Heneghan, RF and Galbraith, E and Blanchard, JL and Harrison, C and Barrier, N and Bulman, C and Cheung, W and Coll, M and Eddy, TD and Erauskin-Extramiana, M and Everett, JD and Fernandes-Salvador, JA and Gascuel, D and Guiet, J and Maury, O and Palacios-Abrantes, J and Petrik, CM and du Pontavice, H and Richardson, AJ and Steenbeek, J and Tai, TC and Volkholz, J and Woodworth-Jefcoats, PA and Tittensor, DP, Disentangling diverse responses to climate change among global marine ecosystem models, Progress in Oceanography, 198 Article 102659. ISSN 0079-6611 (2021) [Refereed Article]

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© 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2021.102659


Climate change is warming the ocean and impacting lower trophic level (LTL) organisms. Marine ecosystem models can provide estimates of how these changes will propagate to larger animals and impact societal services such as fisheries, but at present these estimates vary widely. A better understanding of what drives this inter-model variation will improve our ability to project fisheries and other ecosystem services into the future, while also helping to identify uncertainties in process understanding. Here, we explore the mechanisms that underlie the diversity of responses to changes in temperature and LTLs in eight global marine ecosystem models from the Fisheries and Marine Ecosystem Model Intercomparison Project (FishMIP). Temperature and LTL impacts on total consumer biomass and ecosystem structure (defined as the relative change of small and large organism biomass) were isolated using a comparative experimental protocol. Total model biomass varied between −35% to +3% in response to warming, and -17% to +15% in response to LTL changes. There was little consensus about the spatial redistribution of biomass or changes in the balance between small and large organisms (ecosystem structure) in response to warming, an LTL impacts on total consumer biomass varied depending on the choice of LTL forcing terms. Overall, climate change impacts on consumer biomass and ecosystem structure are well approximated by the sum of temperature and LTL impacts, indicating an absence of nonlinear interaction between the modelsí drivers. Our results highlight a lack of theoretical clarity about how to represent fundamental ecological mechanisms, most importantly how temperature impacts scale from individual to ecosystem level, and the need to better understand the two-way coupling between LTL organisms and consumers. We finish by identifying future research needs to strengthen global marine ecosystem modelling and improve projections of climate change impacts.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:climatic change, modelling, fishery oceanography, marine ecology FishMIP, structural uncertainty
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Climate change impacts and adaptation
Research Field:Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Ecosystem adaptation to climate change
UTAS Author:Blanchard, JL (Professor Julia Blanchard)
ID Code:151404
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:17
Deposited By:Ecology and Biodiversity
Deposited On:2022-07-28
Last Modified:2022-08-09
Downloads:4 View Download Statistics

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