Climate Change Is a Major Driver of Collapse in Marine Food Webs

As it turns out, commercial fishermen should be very concerned with the effects of climate change on the ocean.

A new study has found that levels of commercial fish stocks could be harmed as rising sea temperatures affect their source of food.

University of Adelaide scientists have demonstrated how climate change can drive the collapse of marine “food webs“.

Published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, the study’s lead author PhD student, Hadayet Ullah and supervisors Professor Ivan Nagelkerken and Associate Professor Damien Fordham of the University’s Environment Institute, show that increased temperatures reduce the vital flow of energy from the primary food producers at the bottom (e.g. algae), to intermediate consumers (herbivores), to predators at the top of marine food webs.

Such disturbances in energy transfer can potentially lead to a decrease in food availability for top predators, which in turn, can lead to negative impacts for many marine species within these food webs.

“Healthy food webs are important for maintenance of species diversity and provide a source of income and food for millions of people worldwide,” said Mr Ullah. “Therefore, it is important to understand how climate change is altering marine food webs in the near future.”

Photo: Enric Sala

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