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Nature. 2015 Dec 3;528(7580):88-92. doi: 10.1038/nature16144. Epub 2015 Nov 11.

Thermal biases and vulnerability to warming in the world's marine fauna.

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Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Kräftriket Stockholm, 2B, SE-106 91, Sweden.
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton, University of Southampton, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK.


A critical assumption underlying projections of biodiversity change associated with global warming is that ecological communities comprise balanced mixes of warm-affinity and cool-affinity species which, on average, approximate local environmental temperatures. Nevertheless, here we find that most shallow water marine species occupy broad thermal distributions that are aggregated in either temperate or tropical realms. These distributional trends result in ocean-scale spatial thermal biases, where communities are dominated by species with warmer or cooler affinity than local environmental temperatures. We use community-level thermal deviations from local temperatures as a form of sensitivity to warming, and combine these with projected ocean warming data to predict warming-related loss of species from present-day communities over the next century. Large changes in local species composition appear likely, and proximity to thermal limits, as inferred from present-day species' distributional ranges, outweighs spatial variation in warming rates in contributing to predicted rates of local species loss.

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