Marine heatwaves threaten global biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services

Journal: Nature Climate Change

Published: 2019-03-04

DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0412-1

Affiliations: 21

Authors: 18

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Research Highlight

Heat waves threaten the life aquatic

© Neal Wilson/Getty

© Neal Wilson/Getty

The rising tide of marine heat waves threatens ocean life and the essential services underwater ecosystems provide people on land.

This century has already seen several deadly atmospheric heat waves, but there have also been some devastating marine heat waves, the impacts of which are less clearly understood—and harder to study.

A team that included researchers from the University of New South Wales trawled the literature to assess how marine ecosystems respond to these prolonged periods of extreme warming, which appear to be increasing in frequency.

They found that marine heat waves have killed off vast areas of coral, seagrasses and kelp, and reduced biodiversity. Species already living at the warm end of their comfort zone were particularly vulnerable, as were those in regions already under pressure from overfishing and pollution.

In a warming world, more frequent and intense marine heat waves could severely disrupt commercial fisheries, remove natural coastal protection and reduce carbon uptake by the oceans.

Supported content

  1. Nature Climate Change 9, 306–312 (2019). doi: 10.1038/s41558-019-0412-1
Institutions Share
University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), Australia 0.20
The University of Western Australia (UWA), Australia 0.15
Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), United Kingdom (UK) 0.11
CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia 0.11
University of Tasmania (UTAS), Australia 0.09
University of Canterbury (UC), New Zealand 0.06
Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Aberystwyth University, United Kingdom (UK) 0.06
Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Australia 0.06
University of Washington (UW), United States of America (USA) 0.06
University of Tsukuba, Japan 0.03
Edith Cowan University (ECU), Australia 0.03
Marine Biological Association of the UK, United Kingdom (UK) 0.02
Dalhousie University, Canada 0.02
Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Spain 0.02