Cael, B. B., Begouen Demeaux, C., Henson, S., Stock, C. A., Taboada, F. G., John, J. G., & Barton, A. D. (2022). Marine Ecosystem Changepoints Spread Under Ocean Warming in an Earth System Model. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 127(5), e2021JG006571. https://doi.org/10.1029/2021JG006571
Plankton are the backbone of pelagic ocean ecosystems and play important roles in regulating Earth’s climate. Plankton populations and community structures respond to climate change, but much remains unknown about how climate change will influence plankton in the future. In this study scientists looked for rapid changes, or changepoints, in the virtual plankton communities of a global model simulating Earth’s climate over the pre-industrial era, the 20th century, and a projection of 21st-century climate change. The authors find, for all types of plankton in the model, that the ocean area where changepoints occur expands from the pre-industrial era into the 20th century and again from the 20th to the 21st century. At the same time, hotspot regions, where rapid changes occur at least a few times per century, tend to disappear for all plankton types, and for temperature. Large plankton are more susceptible to changepoints than small plankton, and zooplankton are more susceptible than phytoplankton. The model ecosystem response to climate change is complex and spatially variable but suggests that rapid shifts in plankton communities may become increasingly widespread but less frequent as the climate warms.
Policy relevant message
The model ecosystem response to climate change suggests that rapid shifts in plankton communities may become increasingly widespread but less frequent as the climate warms.