Royal Society Publishing

Regional climatic warming drives long–term community changes of British marine fish

Martin J. Genner, David W. Sims, Victoria J. Wearmouth, Emily J. Southall, Alan J. Southward, Peter A. Henderson, Stephen J. Hawkins

Abstract

Climatic change has been implicated as the cause of abundance fluctuations in marine fish populations worldwide, but the effects on whole communities are poorly understood. We examined the effects of regional climatic change on two fish assemblages using independent datasets from inshore marine (English Channel, 1913–2002) and estuarine environments (Bristol Channel, 1981–2001). Our results show that climatic change has had dramatic effects on community composition. Each assemblage contained a subset of dominant species whose abundances were strongly linked to annual mean sea–surface temperature. Species' latitudinal ranges were not good predictors of species–level responses, however, and the same species did not show congruent trends between sites. This suggests that within a region, populations of the same species may respond differently to climatic change, possibly owing to additional local environmental determinants, interspecific ecological interactions and dispersal capacity. This will make species–level responses difficult to predict within geographically differentiated communities.

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