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Ecol Lett. 2008 Nov;11(11):1198-1207. doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2008.01234.x. Epub 2008 Sep 11.

Diversity of deep-water cetaceans in relation to temperature: implications for ocean warming.

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Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, 1355 Oxford St, Halifax, NS, Canada B3H 4J1.


Understanding the effects of natural environmental variation on biodiversity can help predict response to future anthropogenic change. Here we analyse a large, long-term data set of sightings of deep-water cetaceans from the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Seasonal and geographic changes in the diversity of these genera are well predicted by a convex function of sea-surface temperature peaking at c. 21 degrees C. Thus, diversity is highest at intermediate latitudes - an emerging general pattern for the pelagic ocean. When applied to a range of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change global change scenarios, the predicted response is a decline of cetacean diversity across the tropics and increases at higher latitudes. This suggests that deep-water oceanic communities that dominate > 60% of the planet's surface may reorganize in response to ocean warming, with low-latitude losses of diversity and resilience.

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