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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Climate change drives collapse in marine food webs

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January 9, 2018 University of Adelaide read full ScienceDaily article here

A new study has found that levels of commercial fish stocks could be harmed as rising sea temperatures… drive the collapse of marine “food webs.” [The research shows] that increased temperatures reduce the vital flow of energy from the primary food producers at the bottom (e.g. algae), to intermediate consumers (herbivores), to predators at the top of marine food webs.

Such disturbances in energy transfer can potentially lead to a decrease in food availability for top predators, which in turn, can lead to negative impacts for many marine species within these food webs.

“Healthy food webs are important for maintenance of species diversity and provide a source of income and food for millions of people worldwide…

…”Whilst climate change increased the productivity of plants, this was mainly due to an expansion of cyanobacteria (small blue-green algae),” said Mr Ullah. “This increased primary productivity does not support food webs, however, because these cyanobacteria are largely unpalatable and they are not consumed by herbivores.”

….Most research on ocean warming involves simplified, short-term experiments based on only one or a few species. “If we are to adequately forecast the impacts of climate change on ocean food webs and fisheries productivity, we need more complex and realistic approaches, that provide more reliable data for sophisticated food web models,” said project leader Professor Nagelkerken.

Hadayet Ullah, Ivan Nagelkerken, Silvan U. Goldenberg, Damien A. Fordham. Climate change could drive marine food web collapse through altered trophic flows and cyanobacterial proliferation. PLOS Biology, 2018; 16 (1): e2003446 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2003446

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