Climate Change and Marine Communities 1

My co-authors Chris Harley and Mike Burrows and I recently turned in a book chapter to the editor on “Climate Change and Marine Communities”.  It is for a new book “Marine Community Ecology and Conservation” that I’m co-editing with Mark Bertness, Brian Silliman, and Jay Stachowicz.  The book is more or less a followup to the best-selling 2001 edition (which is out of print and worth $100 used and $500 new at Amazon!).  We asked our authors to tell us what has happened over the last 10 years in their assigned subfield.  The chapters are amazing.  And I am truly blown away by how much we’ve discovered since the publication of the first edition!  Many fields have been revolutionized and many a paradigm has been overturned.  Cool stuff.

The book is due out this fall from Sinauer. As a teaser, here are the titles and authors of the first seven chapters:

Processes that Generate Pattern in Marine Communities

Physical drivers of marine communities – B. Helmuth, M. Weisberg and J. Witman

Foundation Species and the bioengineering of marine ecosystems – A. Altieri and  J. von de Koppel

Marine dispersal, ecology and conservation – S. Palumbi and Malin Pinsky

The role of infectious disease in marine communities – K. Lafferty and D. Harvell

Biodiversity and ecosystem function: does pattern influence process? – M. O’Connor and J. Byrnes

Biogeography of Marine Communities – E. Sanford

Historical ecology: informing the future by learning from the past – Lotze and L. McClenachan


I thought it might be neat to serialize a near final draft of our chapter.  So I’m beginning below with the Preface.  More to come soon!


One of the big shifts in the field of marine ecology since the publication of Marine Community Ecology (Bertness et al. 2001) is a growing appreciation of the extent to which greenhouse gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change will affect ocean ecosystems.  Few chapters of the initial volume even mentioned ocean warming or acidification and there was no chapter on climate change.  In retrospect, this was a huge omission, yet to be fair, few people in the field were working on or even thinking about global warming and climate change 15 to 20 years ago (but see Glynn 1993, Bertness et al. 1999, Hoegh-Guldberg 1999), so there just wasn’t that much material to cover.

That has changed radically.  There is now a massive and rapidly growing literature on how the oceans are changing and what effect this is having (or is predicted to have) on marine communities.  This chapter is an overview of that literature and its conceptual underpinnings. We begin with a description of what climate change is and the physical and chemical changes to the oceans being caused greenhouse gas emissions.  We then review the effects these changes are having on individuals, populations, and communities.  We cover responses of populations and species to changing environmental conditions including range shifts toward higher latitudes, acclimatization, adaptation, and extinction.  We end with a discussion of ocean-based solutions to climate change, of the impacts of climate change on marine ecosystem services, and with some areas for future research.





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