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PLoS Biol. 2009 Aug;7(8):e1000178. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000178. Epub 2009 Aug 25.

Warming and resource availability shift food web structure and metabolism.

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Curriculum in Ecology, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.

Erratum in

  • PLoS Biol. 2009 Sep;7(9). doi: 10.1371/annotation/73c277f8-421a-4843-9171-403be1a014c7.


Climate change disrupts ecological systems in many ways. Many documented responses depend on species' life histories, contributing to the view that climate change effects are important but difficult to characterize generally. However, systematic variation in metabolic effects of temperature across trophic levels suggests that warming may lead to predictable shifts in food web structure and productivity. We experimentally tested the effects of warming on food web structure and productivity under two resource supply scenarios. Consistent with predictions based on universal metabolic responses to temperature, we found that warming strengthened consumer control of primary production when resources were augmented. Warming shifted food web structure and reduced total biomass despite increases in primary productivity in a marine food web. In contrast, at lower resource levels, food web production was constrained at all temperatures. These results demonstrate that small temperature changes could dramatically shift food web dynamics and provide a general, species-independent mechanism for ecological response to environmental temperature change.

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