Climate-driven changes in functional biogeography of Arctic marine fish communities [Ecology]
Climate change triggers poleward shifts in species distribution leading to changes in biogeography. In the marine environment, fish respond quickly to warming, causing community-wide reorganizations, which result in profound changes in ecosystem functioning. Functional biogeography provides a framework to address how ecosystem functioning may be affected by climate change over large spatial scales. However, there are few studies on functional biogeography in the marine environment, and none in the Arctic, where climate-driven changes are most rapid and extensive. We investigated the impact of climate warming on the functional biogeography of the Barents Sea, which is characterized by a sharp zoogeographic divide separating boreal from Arctic species. Our unique dataset covered 52 fish species, 15 functional traits, and 3,660 stations sampled during the recent warming period. We found that the functional traits characterizing Arctic fish communities, mainly composed of small-sized bottom-dwelling benthivores, are being rapidly replaced by traits of incoming boreal species, particularly the larger, longer lived, and more piscivorous species. The changes in functional traits detected in the Arctic can be predicted based on the characteristics of species expected to undergo quick poleward shifts in response to warming. These are the large, generalist, motile species, such as cod and haddock. We show how functional biogeography can provide important insights into the relationship between species composition, diversity, ecosystem functioning, and environmental drivers. This represents invaluable knowledge in a period when communities and ecosystems experience rapid climate-driven changes across biogeographical regions.
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