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Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Pip MooreORCiD


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© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. The global ocean has warmed substantially over the past century, with far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems 1 . Concurrent with long-term persistent warming, discrete periods of extreme regional ocean warming (marine heatwaves, MHWs) have increased in frequency 2 . Here we quantify trends and attributes of MHWs across all ocean basins and examine their biological impacts from species to ecosystems. Multiple regions in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans are particularly vulnerable to MHW intensification, due to the co-existence of high levels of biodiversity, a prevalence of species found at their warm range edges or concurrent non-climatic human impacts. The physical attributes of prominent MHWs varied considerably, but all had deleterious impacts across a range of biological processes and taxa, including critical foundation species (corals, seagrasses and kelps). MHWs, which will probably intensify with anthropogenic climate change 3 , are rapidly emerging as forceful agents of disturbance with the capacity to restructure entire ecosystems and disrupt the provision of ecological goods and services in coming decades.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Smale DA, Wernberg T, Oliver ECJ, Thomsen M, Harvey BP, Straub SC, Burrows MT, Alexander LV, Benthuysen JA, Donat MG, Feng M, Hobday AJ, Holbrook NJ, Perkins-Kirkpatrick SE, Scannell HA, Sen Gupta A, Payne BL, Moore PJ

Publication type: Letter

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Climate Change

Year: 2019

Volume: 9

Issue: 4

Pages: 306-312

Print publication date: 01/04/2019

Online publication date: 04/03/2019

Acceptance date: 14/01/2019

ISSN (print): 1758-678X

ISSN (electronic): 1758-6798

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0412-1