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Responses of marine organisms to climate change across oceans

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Pip MooreORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2016 Poloczanska, Burrows, Brown, García Molinos, Halpern, Hoegh-Guldberg, Kappel, Moore, Richardson, Schoeman and Sydeman. Climate change is driving changes in the physical and chemical properties of the ocean that have consequences for marine ecosystems. Here, we review evidence for the responses of marine life to recent climate change across ocean regions, from tropical seas to polar oceans. We consider observed changes in calcification rates, demography, abundance, distribution, and phenology of marine species. We draw on a database of observed climate change impacts on marine species, supplemented with evidence in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We discuss factors that limit or facilitate species' responses, such as fishing pressure, the availability of prey, habitat, light and other resources, and dispersal by ocean currents. We find that general trends in species' responses are consistent with expectations from climate change, including shifts in distribution to higher latitudes and to deeper locations, advances in spring phenology, declines in calcification, and increases in the abundance of warm-water species. The volume and type of evidence associated with species responses to climate change is variable across ocean regions and taxonomic groups, with predominance of evidence derived from the heavily-studied north Atlantic Ocean. Most investigations of the impact of climate change being associated with the impacts of changing temperature, with few observations of effects of changing oxygen, wave climate, precipitation (coastal waters), or ocean acidification. Observations of species responses that have been linked to anthropogenic climate change are widespread, but are still lacking for some taxonomic groups (e.g., phytoplankton, benthic invertebrates, marine mammals).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Poloczanska ES, Burrows MT, Brown CJ, Molinos JG, Halpern BS, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Kappel CV, Moore PJ, Richardson AJ, Schoeman DS, Sydeman WJ

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Frontiers in Marine Science

Year: 2016

Volume: 3

Online publication date: 04/05/2016

Acceptance date: 18/04/2016

ISSN (electronic): 2296-7745

Publisher: Frontiers Media S. A


DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00062