Feb 10, 2023
The structure and function of marine ecosystems is changing due to global warming
Rising sea temperatures over the past decades have caused visible changes to reef community structures.

Recently, drastic temperatures were registered in Tasmania, which researchers say is warming at a rate four-times higher than the global average. A recent study of the University of Tasmania compared reef biodiversity over three periods from 1992-2019, and has found that there has been an increase in fish biomass, a decrease in algal cover, and a reduction in the richness and abundance of macroinvertebrate species. Increases in abundance of fish resulted from the influx of species more adapted to warm water.

Warming oceans drive the re-distribution of marine species, which can have cascading impacts across all levels of the ecosystem. Researchers have also observed evidence of thermophilisation, the adaption of species to a warmer climate. Greater changes in the marine communities were observed outside marine protected areas. Marine protected areas have more complete marine communities’ guilds and this makes them more resilient to the changes associated with warming seas. This highlights importance of effective and well-regulated protected areas.

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