Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services

Authors Organisations
  • Dan A. Smale(Author)
    Marine Biological Association
    University of Western Australia
  • Thomas Wernberg(Author)
    University of Western Australia
  • Eric C. J. Oliver(Author)
    Dalhousie University
    University of Tasmania
  • Mads Thomsen(Author)
    University of Canterbury
  • Ben P. Harvey(Author)
    University of Tsukuba
  • Sandra C. Straub(Author)
    University of Western Australia
  • Michael T. Burrows(Author)
    Scottish Association for Marine Science
  • Lisa V. Alexander(Author)
    University of New South Wales
  • Jessica A. Benthuysen(Author)
    Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS)
  • Markus G. Donat(Author)
    University of New South Wales
    Barcelona Supercomputing Center
  • Ming Feng(Author)
    CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere
  • Alistair J. Hobday(Author)
    CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere
  • Neil J. Holbrook(Author)
    University of Tasmania
  • Sarah E. Perkins-Kirkpatrick(Author)
    University of New South Wales
  • Hillary A. Scannell(Author)
    University of Washington
  • Alex Sen Gupta(Author)
    University of New South Wales
  • Ben L. Payne(Author)
    Scottish Association for Marine Science
  • Pippa J. Moore(Author)
Type Letter
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Climate Change
Early online date04 Mar 2019
DOI
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 04 Mar 2019
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Abstract

The global ocean has warmed substantially over the past century, with far-reaching implications for marine ecosystems1. Concurrent with long-term persistent warming, discrete periods of extreme regional ocean warming (marine heatwaves, MHWs) have increased in frequency2. Here we quantify trends and attributes of MHWs across all ocean basins and examine their biological impacts from species to ecosystems. Multiple regions in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans are particularly vulnerable to MHW intensification, due to the co-existence of high levels of biodiversity, a prevalence of species found at their warm range edges or concurrent non-climatic human impacts. The physical attributes of prominent MHWs varied considerably, but all had deleterious impacts across a range of biological processes and taxa, including critical foundation species (corals, seagrasses and kelps). MHWs, which will probably intensify with anthropogenic climate change3, are rapidly emerging as forceful agents of disturbance with the capacity to restructure entire ecosystems and disrupt the provision of ecological goods and services in coming decades.