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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Ocean temperature extremes lead to population declines- albatross

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Posted: 30 May 2017 11:07 AM PDT See full article here: ScienceDaily

…the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B created a special June issue to explore what is known on [behavioral, ecological and evolutionary impacts of extreme climatic events] and pioneer new approaches to this challenging and rapidly expanding field of study…”Changes in variability can have very different consequences on population dynamics for both animals and plants,” Jenouvrier says…..

…A change in temperature variability leads to more frequent warmer and colder events while a change in the temperature mean increases the occurrence of warmer events but decreases the occurrence of colder events. The researchers found that changes in the variation of ocean temperatures had a threefold effect on the growth rate of the albatross population compared to changes in just mean ocean temperature. Increasing variation of ocean temperatures — temperatures that range well below or above the optimum for the species — leads to population decline, while increasing the mean (average) of ocean temperatures result in population increase.

… In other words, the effect of extreme events can be buffered when species live in cooler than optimal environments, providing a kind of “climate safety margin” for those species.

“In this case, the historical mean (or average) of sea surface temperatures was lower than the optimal temperature for this species,” explains Jenouvrier. “If the mean temperature warms, these albatrosses will experience temperatures that will be more often at or near the optimum range for the species, so these changes in mean will buffer the negative effects of the extreme warming events.” However, even for those species that do experience a buffering effect from the climate safety margin, it’s likely to be only temporary as future temperatures continue to rise beyond their optimal temperature range, she adds….

Martijn van de Pol, Stéphanie Jenouvrier, Johannes H. C. Cornelissen, Marcel E. Visser. Behavioural, ecological and evolutionary responses to extreme climatic events: challenges and directions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2017; 372 (1723): 20160134 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0134.

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