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Rapid Emergence of Climate Change in Environmental Drivers of Marine Ecosystems

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Rapid Emergence of Climate Change in Environmental Drivers of Marine Ecosystems

Stephanie A Henson et al. Nat Commun.

Abstract

Climate change is expected to modify ecological responses in the ocean, with the potential for important effects on the ecosystem services provided to humankind. Here we address the question of how rapidly multiple drivers of marine ecosystem change develop in the future ocean. By analysing an ensemble of models we find that, within the next 15 years, the climate change-driven trends in multiple ecosystem drivers emerge from the background of natural variability in 55% of the ocean and propagate rapidly to encompass 86% of the ocean by 2050 under a 'business-as-usual' scenario. However, we also demonstrate that the exposure of marine ecosystems to climate change-induced stress can be drastically reduced via climate mitigation measures; with mitigation, the proportion of ocean susceptible to multiple drivers within the next 15 years is reduced to 34%. Mitigation slows the pace at which multiple drivers emerge, allowing an additional 20 years for adaptation in marine ecological and socio-economic systems alike.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. ToE and pace of climate change in ecosystem drivers.
Multi-model median of the year when annual extrema exceed the climate change trend (see ‘Methods' section) for (a) SST, (b) PP, (c) pH and (d) interior oxygen content in the ‘business-as-usual' scenario (RCP8.5). Note the different colour scales for each variable. (eh) The pace of climate change: the number of years between the start of climate change and the signal emerging (see ‘Methods' section). White areas indicate where ecosystem stress does not emerge above the range of variability for that parameter by 2100.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Emergence of multiple drivers.
Combination of stressors that have emerged above the background of seasonal variability by (a) 2010, (b) 2030, (c) 2050 and (d) 2100 for a ‘business-as-usual' scenario (RCP8.5), based on the model mean ToE estimates shown in Fig. 1. (eh) same, but for the mitigation scenario (RCP4.5). In the legend, T refers to SST, PP to primary production and O2 to interior oxygen concentration.
Figure 3
Figure 3. ToE and pace of climate change in ecosystem drivers under a mitigation scenario.
Multi-model median of the year when climate change trend exceeds the range of natural seasonal variability (see ‘Methods' section) for (a) SST, (b) PP, (c) pH and (d) interior oxygen content in a mitigation scenario (RCP4.5). Note the different colour scales for each variable. (eh) Number of years between the start of climate change and the signal emerging (see ‘Methods' section). White areas indicate where ecosystem stress does not emerge above the range of seasonal variability for that parameter by 2100.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Effect of mitigation on the global emergence in drivers of ecosystem stress.
The proportion of the ocean in each year 1900–2100 affected by multiple stress (>1 driver) and quadruple stress (all 4 drivers) in the ‘business-as-usual' scenario (RCP8.5) and a mitigation scenario (RCP4.5). Shaded areas represent ±1 inter-model s.d.

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