Community ecology in a warming world: The influence of temperature on interspecific interactions in marine systems

  • Kordas R
  • Harley C
  • O'Connor M
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Ecological patterns are determined by the interplay between abiotic factors and interactions among species. As the Earth's climate warms, interactions such as competition, predation, and mutualism are changing due to shifts in per capita interaction strength and the relative abundance of interacting species. Changes in interspecific relationships, in turn, can drive important local-scale changes in community dynamics, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning, and can potentially alter large-scale patterns of distribution and abundance. In many cases, the importance of indirect effects of warming, mediated by changing species interactions, will be greater-albeit less well understood-than direct effects in determining the community- and ecosystem-level outcomes of global climate change. Despite considerable community-specific idiosyncrasy, ecological theory and a growing body of data suggest that certain general trends are emerging at local scales: positive interactions tend to become more prevalent with warming, and top trophic levels are disproportionately vulnerable. In addition, important ecological changes result when the geographic overlap between species changes, and when the seasonal timing of life history events of interacting species falls into or out of synchrony. We assess the degree to which such changes are predictable, and urge advancement on several high priority questions surrounding the relationships between temperature and community ecology. An improved understanding of how assemblages of multiple, interacting species will respond to climate change is imperative if we hope to effectively prepare for and adapt to its effects. Crown Copyright © 2011.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Climate Change Ecology
  • Community Ecology
  • Metabolic Ecology
  • Species interaction
  • Temperature

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  • R L Kordas

  • C D G Harley

  • M I O'Connor

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