High trophic level feedbacks on global ocean carbon uptake and marine ecosystem dynamics under climate change

Glob Chang Biol. 2023 Mar;29(6):1545-1556. doi: 10.1111/gcb.16558. Epub 2023 Jan 5.


Despite recurrent emphasis on their ecological and economic roles, the importance of high trophic levels (HTLs) on ocean carbon dynamics, through passive (fecal pellet production, carcasses) and active (vertical migration) processes, is still largely unexplored, notably under climate change scenarios. In addition, HTLs impact the ecosystem dynamics through top-down effects on lower trophic levels, which might change under anthropogenic influence. Here we compare two simulations of a global biogeochemical-ecosystem model with and without feedbacks from large marine animals. We show that these large marine animals affect the evolution of low trophic level biomasses, hence net primary production and most certainly ecosystem equilibrium, but seem to have little influence on the 21st-century anthropogenic carbon uptake under the RCP8.5 scenario. These results provide new insights regarding the expectations for trophic amplification of climate change through the marine trophic chain and regarding the necessity to explicitly represent marine animals in Earth System Models.

Keywords: Earth System Model; climate change; feedbacks; high trophic levels; trophic cascades.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomass
  • Climate Change*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Feedback
  • Oceans and Seas