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Journal: Global change biology


In response to climate warming, subalpine treelines are expected to move up in elevation since treelines are generally controlled by growing season temperature. Where treeline is advancing, dispersal differences and early life stage environmental tolerances are likely to affect how species expand their ranges. Species with an establishment advantage will colonize newly available habitat first, potentially excluding species that have slower establishment rates. Using a network of plots across five mountain ranges, we described patterns of upslope elevational range shift for the two dominant Great Basin sub-alpine species, limber pine and Great Basin bristlecone pine. We found that the Great Basin treeline for these species is expanding upslope with a mean vertical elevation shift of 19.1 m since 1950, which is lower than what we might expect based on temperature increases alone. The largest advances were on limber pine-dominated granitic soils, on west aspects, and at lower latitudes. Bristlecone pine juveniles establishing above treeline share some environmental associations with bristlecone adults. Limber pine above-treeline juveniles, in contrast, are prevalent across environmental conditions and share few environmental associations with limber pine adults. Strikingly, limber pine is establishing above treeline throughout the region without regard to site characteristic such as soil type, slope, aspect, or soil texture. Though limber pine is often rare at treeline where it coexists with bristlecone pine, limber pine juveniles dominate above treeline even on calcareous soils that are core bristlecone pine habitat. Limber pine is successfully “leap-frogging” over bristlecone pine, probably because of its strong dispersal advantage and broader tolerances for establishment. This early-stage dominance indicates the potential for the species composition of treeline to change in response to climate change. More broadly, it shows how species differences in dispersal and establishment may result in future communities with very different specific composition. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Climate, Soil, Climate change, Pinus classification, Pinus, Whitebark Pine, Tree line, Bristlecone pine


Most of the planet’s diversity is concentrated in the tropics, which includes many regions undergoing rapid climate change. Yet, while climate-induced biodiversity changes are widely documented elsewhere, few studies have addressed this issue for lowland tropical ecosystems. Here we investigate whether the floristic and functional composition of intact lowland Amazonian forests have been changing by evaluating records from 106 long-term inventory plots spanning 30 years. We analyse three traits that have been hypothesized to respond to different environmental drivers (increase in moisture stress and atmospheric CO2 concentrations): maximum tree size, biogeographic water-deficit affiliation and wood density. Tree communities have become increasingly dominated by large-statured taxa, but to date there has been no detectable change in mean wood density or water deficit affiliation at the community level, despite most forest plots having experienced an intensification of the dry season. However, among newly recruited trees, dry-affiliated genera have become more abundant, while the mortality of wet-affiliated genera has increased in those plots where the dry season has intensified most. Thus, a slow shift to a more dry-affiliated Amazonia is underway, with changes in compositional dynamics (recruits and mortality) consistent with climate-change drivers, but yet to significantly impact whole-community composition. The Amazon observational record suggests that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is driving a shift within tree communities to large-statured species and that climate changes to date will impact forest composition, but long generation times of tropical trees mean that biodiversity change is lagging behind climate change.


The Paris Agreement is a multinational initiative to combat climate change by keeping a global temperature increase in this century to 2°C above preindustrial levels while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. Until recently, ensembles of coupled climate simulations producing temporal dynamics of climate en route to stable global mean temperature at 1.5 and 2°C above preindustrial levels were not available. Hence, the few studies that have assessed the ecological impact of the Paris Agreement used ad-hoc approaches. The development of new specific mitigation climate simulations now provides an unprecedented opportunity to inform ecological impact assessments. Here we project the dynamics of all known emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri) colonies under new climate change scenarios meeting the Paris Agreement objectives using a climate-dependent-metapopulation model. Our model includes various dispersal behaviors so that penguins could modulate climate effects through movement and habitat selection. Under business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, we show that 80% of the colonies are projected to be quasiextinct by 2100, thus the total abundance of emperor penguins is projected to decline by at least 81% relative to its initial size, regardless of dispersal abilities. In contrast, if the Paris Agreement objectives are met, viable emperor penguin refuges will exist in Antarctica, and only 19% and 31% colonies are projected to be quasiextinct by 2100 under the Paris 1.5 and 2 climate scenarios respectively. As a result, the global population is projected to decline by at least by 31% under Paris 1.5 and 44% under Paris 2. However, population growth rates stabilize in 2060 such that the global population will be only declining at 0.07% under Paris 1.5 and 0.34% under Paris 2, thereby halting the global population decline. Hence, global climate policy has a larger capacity to safeguard the future of emperor penguins than their intrinsic dispersal abilities.


Exponentially rising CO2 (currently ~400 μatm) is driving climate change and causing acidification of both marine and freshwater environments. Physiologists have long known that CO2 directly affects acid-base and ion regulation, respiratory function and aerobic performance in aquatic animals. More recently, many studies have demonstrated that elevated CO2 projected for end of this century (e.g. 800-1000 μatm) can also impact physiology, and have substantial effects on behaviours linked to sensory stimuli (smell, hearing and vision) both having negative implications for fitness and survival. In contrast, the aquaculture industry was farming aquatic animals at CO2 levels that far exceed end-of-century climate change projections (sometimes >10 000 μatm) long before the term ‘ocean acidification’ was coined, with limited detrimental effects reported. It is therefore vital to understand the reasons behind this apparent discrepancy. Potential explanations include 1) the use of ‘control’ CO2 levels in aquaculture studies that go beyond 2100 projections in an ocean acidification context; 2) the relatively benign environment in aquaculture (abundant food, disease protection, absence of predators) compared to the wild; 3) aquaculture species having been chosen due to their natural tolerance to the intensive conditions, including CO2 levels; or 4) the breeding of species within intensive aquaculture having further selected traits that confer tolerance to elevated CO2 . We highlight this issue and outline the insights that climate change and aquaculture science can offer for both marine and freshwater settings. Integrating these two fields will stimulate discussion on the direction of future cross-disciplinary research. In doing so, this article aimed to optimize future research efforts and elucidate effective mitigation strategies for managing the negative impacts of elevated CO2 on future aquatic ecosystems and the sustainability of fish and shellfish aquaculture.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Fish, Water, Climate, Ecosystem, Ocean, Carbonic acid, Aquatic ecology


This summer, a heatwave across Antarctica saw temperatures soar above average. Temperatures above zero are especially significant because they accelerate ice melt. Casey Station had its highest temperature ever, reaching a maximum of 9.2°C and minimum of 2.5°C. The highest temperature in Antarctica was 20.75°C on 9 February. Here we discuss the biological implications of such extreme events.


Ocean acidification represents a threat to marine species worldwide, and forecasting the ecological impacts of acidification is a high priority for science, management, and policy. As research on the topic expands at an exponential rate, a comprehensive understanding of the variability in organisms' responses and corresponding levels of certainty is necessary to forecast the ecological effects. Here, we perform the most comprehensive meta-analysis to date by synthesizing the results of 228 studies examining biological responses to ocean acidification. The results reveal decreased survival, calcification, growth, development and abundance in response to acidification when the broad range of marine organisms is pooled together. However, the magnitude of these responses varies among taxonomic groups, suggesting there is some predictable trait-based variation in sensitivity, despite the investigation of approximately 100 new species in recent research. The results also reveal an enhanced sensitivity of mollusk larvae, but suggest that an enhanced sensitivity of early life history stages is not universal across all taxonomic groups. In addition, the variability in species' responses is enhanced when they are exposed to acidification in multi-species assemblages, suggesting that it is important to consider indirect effects and exercise caution when forecasting abundance patterns from single-species laboratory experiments. Furthermore, the results suggest that other factors, such as nutritional status or source population, could cause substantial variation in organisms' responses. Last, the results highlight a trend towards enhanced sensitivity to acidification when taxa are concurrently exposed to elevated seawater temperature.

Concepts: Biology, Life, Oceanography, Greek loanwords, Taxonomic rank, Ocean, Alpha taxonomy, Ocean acidification


Globally, biological invasions can have strong impacts on biodiversity as well as ecosystem functioning. While less conspicuous than introduced aboveground organisms, introduced belowground organisms may have similarly strong effects. Here, we synthesize for the first time the impacts of introduced earthworms on plant diversity and community composition in North American forests. We conducted a meta-analysis using a total of 645 observations to quantify mean effect sizes of associations between introduced earthworm communities and plant diversity, cover of plant functional groups, and cover of native and non-native plants. We found that plant diversity significantly declined with increasing richness of introduced earthworm ecological groups. While plant species richness or evenness did not change with earthworm invasion, our results indicate clear changes in plant community composition: cover of graminoids and non-native plant species significantly increased, and cover of native plant species (of all functional groups) tended to decrease, with increasing earthworm biomass. Overall, these findings support the hypothesis that introduced earthworms facilitate particular plant species adapted to the abiotic conditions of earthworm-invaded forests. Further, our study provides evidence that introduced earthworms are associated with declines in plant diversity in North American forests. Changing plant functional composition in these forests may have long-lasting effects on ecosystem functioning.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Organism, Life, Species, Plant, Ecosystem, Effect size, Charles Darwin


When and where to move is a fundamental decision to migratory birds, and the fitness-related costs and benefits of migratory choices make them subject to strong selective forces. Site use and migration routes are outcomes of opportunities in the surrounding landscape, and the optimal migration strategy may be conservative or explorative depending on the variability of the environment occupied by the species. This study applies 25 years of resighting data to examine development in winter migration strategy of pink-footed geese divided among Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium, and analyse potential drivers of strategy change as well as individuals' likelihood to break with migratory tradition. Contrary to the general notion that geese are highly traditional in their winter site use, our results reveal that winter migration strategy is highly dynamic in this species, with an average annual probability of changing strategy of 54%. Strategy was not related to hunting pressure or winter temperature, but could be partly explained by a tracking of food resources in a landscape of rapid land use changes. The probability of individuals changing strategy from year to year varied considerably between birds, and was partly related to sex and age, with young males being the most likely to change. The annual probability of changing wintering strategy increased substantially from ≈ 40% to ≈ 60% during the study period, indicating an increasingly explorative behaviour. Our findings demonstrate that individual winter strategies are very flexible and able to change over time, suggesting that phenotypic plasticity and cultural transmission are important drivers of strategy choice in this species. Growing benefits from exploratory behaviours, including the ability to track rapid land use changes, may ultimately result in increased resilience to global change. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Bird, Decision theory, Change, All rights reserved, Copyright, Winter, Anser, Bird migration


In many regions across the globe, extreme weather events such as storms have increased in frequency, intensity, and duration due to climate change. Ecological theory predicts that such extreme events should have large impacts on ecosystem structure and function. High winds and precipitation associated with storms can affect lakes via short-term runoff events from watersheds and physical mixing of the water column. In addition, lakes connected to rivers and streams will also experience flushing due to high flow rates. Although we have a well-developed understanding of how wind and precipitation events can alter lake physical processes and some aspects of biogeochemical cycling, our mechanistic understanding of the emergent responses of phytoplankton communities is poor. Here we provide a comprehensive synthesis that identifies how storms interact with lake and watershed attributes and their antecedent conditions to generate changes in lake physical and chemical environments. Such changes can restructure phytoplankton communities and their dynamics, as well as result in altered ecological function (e.g., carbon, nutrient and energy cycling) in the short- and long-term. We summarize the current understanding of storm-induced phytoplankton dynamics, identify knowledge gaps with a systematic review of the literature, and suggest future research directions across a gradient of lake types and environmental conditions.


Land-based enhanced rock weathering (ERW) is a biogeochemical carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategy aiming to accelerate natural geological processes of carbon sequestration through application of crushed silicate rocks, such as basalt, to croplands and forested landscapes. However, the efficacy of the approach when undertaken with basalt, and its potential co-benefits for agriculture, require experimental and field evaluation. Here we report that amending a UK clay-loam agricultural soil with a high loading (10 kg/m2 ) of relatively coarse-grained crushed basalt significantly increased the yield (21 ± 9.4%, SE) of the important C4 cereal Sorghum bicolor under controlled environmental conditions, without accumulation of potentially toxic trace elements in the seeds. Yield increases resulted from the basalt treatment after 120 days without P- and K-fertilizer addition. Shoot silicon concentrations also increased significantly (26 ± 5.4%, SE), with potential benefits for crop resistance to biotic and abiotic stress. Elemental budgets indicate substantial release of base cations important for inorganic carbon removal and their accumulation mainly in the soil exchangeable pools. Geochemical reactive transport modelling, constrained by elemental budgets, indicated CO2 sequestration rates of 2-4 t CO2 /ha, 1-5 years after a single application of basaltic rock dust, including via newly formed soil carbonate minerals whose long-term fate requires assessment through field trials. This represents an approximately fourfold increase in carbon capture compared to control plant-soil systems without basalt. Our results build support for ERW deployment as a CDR technique compatible with spreading basalt powder on acidic loamy soils common across millions of hectares of western European and North American agriculture.