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Title: An extreme climatic event alters marine ecosystem structure in a global biodiversity hotspot
Authors: Wernberg, Thomas
Smale, Dan A.
Tuya, Fernando 
Thomsen, Mads S.
Langlois, Timothy J.
De Bettignies, Thibaut
Bennett, Scott
Rousseaux, Cecile S.
UNESCO Clasification: 250203 Bioclimatología
240119 Zoología marina
241705 Biología marina
Keywords: Climate-change ecology
Marine biology
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: 1758-678X
Journal: Nature Climate Change 
Abstract: Extreme climatic events, such as heat waves, are predicted to increase in frequency and magnitude as a consequence of global warming but their ecological effects are poorly understood, particularly in marine ecosystems1,2,3. In early 2011, the marine ecosystems along the west coast of Australia—a global hotspot of biodiversity and endemism4,5—experienced the highest-magnitude warming event on record. Sea temperatures soared to unprecedented levels and warming anomalies of 2–4 °C persisted for more than ten weeks along >2,000 km of coastline. We show that biodiversity patterns of temperate seaweeds, sessile invertebrates and demersal fish were significantly different after the warming event, which led to a reduction in the abundance of habitat-forming seaweeds and a subsequent shift in community structure towards a depauperate state and a tropicalization of fish communities. We conclude that extreme climatic events are key drivers of biodiversity patterns and that the frequency and intensity of such episodes have major implications for predictive models of species distribution and ecosystem structure, which are largely based on gradual warming trends.
ISSN: 1758-678X
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1627
Source: Nature Climate Change [ISSN 1758-678X], v. 3, p. 78-82
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