Warming destabilises aquatic ecosystems
22 October 2010
New findings by a team of SBCS ecologists suggest that global warming could have profoundly negative consequences for aquatic ecosystems. The study - published in this month’s Global Change Biology and covered by the BBC - investigated the impact of increasing water temperature on microscopic organisms known as plankton, which form the base of many aquatic food chains. Describing the results, lead author Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher told the BBC that small increases in temperature resulted in a switch from a system dominated by relatively large plankton to plankton with lower biomass. Previous work suggests that ecosystems with an excess of such smaller phytoplankton are likely to be less stable over time, which could be bad news for the large numbers of the world’s most productive marine and aquatic ecosystems that rely critically on the balance of plankton. Dr Yvon-Durocher added that while the species' composition might change, it is not yet clear how those changes are going to affect the functions of the ecosystems, and that this is the team’s next challenge.