Long-term empirical evidence of ocean warming leading to tropicalization of fish communities, increased herbivory, and loss of kelp

Verges, Adriana, Doropoulos, Christopher, Malcolm, Hamish A., Skye, Mathew, Garcia-Piza, Marina, Marzinelli, Ezequiel M., Campbell, Alexandra H., Ballesteros, Enric, Hoey, Andrew S., Vila-Concejo, Ana, Bozec, Yves-Marie and Steinberg, Peter D. (2016) Long-term empirical evidence of ocean warming leading to tropicalization of fish communities, increased herbivory, and loss of kelp. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 48: 13791-13796. doi:10.1073/pnas.1610725113


Author Verges, Adriana
Doropoulos, Christopher
Malcolm, Hamish A.
Skye, Mathew
Garcia-Piza, Marina
Marzinelli, Ezequiel M.
Campbell, Alexandra H.
Ballesteros, Enric
Hoey, Andrew S.
Vila-Concejo, Ana
Bozec, Yves-Marie
Steinberg, Peter D.
Title Long-term empirical evidence of ocean warming leading to tropicalization of fish communities, increased herbivory, and loss of kelp
Journal name Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1091-6490
0027-8424
Publication date 2016-11-29
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1073/pnas.1610725113
Open Access Status Not yet assessed
Volume 113
Issue 48
Start page 13791
End page 13796
Total pages 6
Place of publication Washington, DC, United States
Publisher National Academy of Sciences
Language eng
Subject 1000 General
Abstract Some of the most profound effects of climate change on ecological communities are due to alterations in species interactions rather than direct physiological effects of changing environmental conditions. Empirical evidence of historical changes in species interactions within climate-impacted communities is, however, rare and difficult to obtain. Here, we demonstrate the recent disappearance of key habitat-forming kelp forests from a warming tropical-temperate transition zone in eastern Australia. Using a 10-y video dataset encompassing a 0.6 °C warming period, we show how herbivory increased as kelp gradually declined and then disappeared. Concurrently, fish communities from sites where kelp was originally abundant but subsequently disappeared became increasingly dominated by tropical herbivores. Feeding assays identified two key tropical/subtropical herbivores that consumed transplanted kelp within hours at these sites. There was also a distinct increase in the abundance of fishes that consume epilithic algae, and much higher bite rates by this group at sites without kelp, suggesting a key role for these fishes in maintaining reefs in kelp-free states by removing kelp recruits. Changes in kelp abundance showed no direct relationship to seawater temperatures over the decade and were also unrelated to other measured abiotic factors (nutrients and storms). Our results show that warming-mediated increases in fish herbivory pose a significant threat to kelp-dominated ecosystems in Australia and, potentially, globally.
Keyword Climate change
Macroalgae
Plant-herbivore interactions
Range shifts
Tropicalization
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
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