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      Global warming benefits the small in aquatic ecosystems

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          Abstract

          Understanding the ecological impacts of climate change is a crucial challenge of the twenty-first century. There is a clear lack of general rules regarding the impacts of global warming on biota. Here, we present a metaanalysis of the effect of climate change on body size of ectothermic aquatic organisms (bacteria, phyto- and zooplankton, and fish) from the community to the individual level. Using long-term surveys, experimental data and published results, we show a significant increase in the proportion of small-sized species and young age classes and a decrease in size-at-age. These results are in accordance with the ecological rules dealing with the temperature–size relationships (i.e., Bergmann's rule, James' rule and Temperature–Size Rule). Our study provides evidence that reduced body size is the third universal ecological response to global warming in aquatic systems besides the shift of species ranges toward higher altitudes and latitudes and the seasonal shifts in life cycle events.

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          Most cited references41

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          A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems.

          Causal attribution of recent biological trends to climate change is complicated because non-climatic influences dominate local, short-term biological changes. Any underlying signal from climate change is likely to be revealed by analyses that seek systematic trends across diverse species and geographic regions; however, debates within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reveal several definitions of a 'systematic trend'. Here, we explore these differences, apply diverse analyses to more than 1,700 species, and show that recent biological trends match climate change predictions. Global meta-analyses documented significant range shifts averaging 6.1 km per decade towards the poles (or metres per decade upward), and significant mean advancement of spring events by 2.3 days per decade. We define a diagnostic fingerprint of temporal and spatial 'sign-switching' responses uniquely predicted by twentieth century climate trends. Among appropriate long-term/large-scale/multi-species data sets, this diagnostic fingerprint was found for 279 species. This suite of analyses generates 'very high confidence' (as laid down by the IPCC) that climate change is already affecting living systems.
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            TOWARD A METABOLIC THEORY OF ECOLOGY

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              Ecological responses to recent climate change.

              There is now ample evidence of the ecological impacts of recent climate change, from polar terrestrial to tropical marine environments. The responses of both flora and fauna span an array of ecosystems and organizational hierarchies, from the species to the community levels. Despite continued uncertainty as to community and ecosystem trajectories under global change, our review exposes a coherent pattern of ecological change across systems. Although we are only at an early stage in the projected trends of global warming, ecological responses to recent climate change are already clearly visible.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A.
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                August 04 2009
                August 04 2009
                August 04 2009
                : 106
                : 31
                : 12788-12793
                Affiliations
                [1 ]FB3–Marine Ökologie, Leibniz-Institut für Meereswissenschaften (IFM-GEOMAR), 24105 Kiel, Germany; and
                [2 ]HYAX–Lake Ecosystems Laboratory, Cemagref, 13182 Aix-en-Provence, France
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.0902080106
                2722360
                19620720
                94f9976c-b26a-4a23-b9ed-95aebaf16897
                © 2009
                History

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