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Global, Local Warming Both Affect Marine Ecosystems


Study proposes a ‘more realistic’ conceptual model for understanding ocean impacts due to climate change.

A new approach to examining the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems may provide a more accurate understanding of climate change responses and predictions for future consequences, according to a new paper co-authored by a Brown University biologist.

The paper, published in the Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, highlights the interplay between the trend of climate warming and the fluctuations in local temperature. These two properties cause atypically warm events such as marine heatwaves to occur with increasing frequency and magnitude.

However, the interaction between the steadily warming climate and the spikes in local temperatures tends to be underappreciated, according to study co-author Jon Witman, PhD, a professor of biology.

“Climate change studies often focus on the trend of global warming,” Witman says. “But organisms in the ocean are also experiencing temperature fluctuations, and that’s less studied and therefore less understood. What we’re trying to do is to add more reality into ocean climate change studies by considering both the smooth, upward trend of climate warming as well as the variability on top of that trend.”

The paper proposes a new approach for understanding and modeling the effects of marine climate change, with suggestions for future research.

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