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J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2016, 4(4), 75; doi:10.3390/jmse4040075

To What Extent Can Existing Research Help Project Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity in Aquatic Environments? A Review of Methodological Approaches

1
Center for Ecology and Evolution in Microbial Model Systems, EEMiS, Department of Biology and Environmental Science, Linnaeus University, SE-391 82 Kalmar, Sweden
2
Department of Biology and Environmental Science, Linnaeus University, SE-391 82 Kalmar, Sweden
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Kerstin Johannesson
Received: 14 September 2016 / Revised: 31 October 2016 / Accepted: 3 November 2016 / Published: 10 November 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impacts of Climate Change on a Marginal Ecosystems—the Baltic Sea)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1979 KB, uploaded 10 November 2016]   |  

Abstract

It is broadly accepted that continued global warming will pose a major threat to biodiversity in the 21st century. But how reliable are current projections regarding consequences of future climate change for biodiversity? To address this issue, we review the methodological approaches in published studies of how life in marine and freshwater environments responds to temperature shifts. We analyze and compare observational field surveys and experiments performed either in the laboratory or under natural conditions in the wild, the type of response variables considered, the number of species investigated, study duration, and the nature and magnitude of experimental temperature manipulations. The observed patterns indicate that, due to limitations of study design, ecological and evolutionary responses of individuals, populations, species, and ecosystems to temperature change were in many cases difficult to establish, and causal mechanism(s) often remained ambiguous. We also discovered that the thermal challenge in experimental studies was 10,000 times more severe than reconstructed estimates of past and projections of future warming of the oceans, and that temperature manipulations also tended to increase in magnitude in more recent studies. These findings raise some concerns regarding the extent to which existing research can increase our understanding of how higher temperatures associated with climate change will affect life in aquatic environments. In view of our review findings, we discuss the trade-off between realism and methodological tractability. We also propose a series of suggestions and directions towards developing a scientific agenda for improving the validity and inference space of future research efforts. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; global warming; biological diversity; temperature manipulation experiments; thermal challenge climate change; global warming; biological diversity; temperature manipulation experiments; thermal challenge
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Forsman, A.; Berggren, H.; Åström, M.; Larsson, P. To What Extent Can Existing Research Help Project Climate Change Impacts on Biodiversity in Aquatic Environments? A Review of Methodological Approaches. J. Mar. Sci. Eng. 2016, 4, 75.

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