Global warming propels exotic species impacts on marine ecosystems

Dr Scott Bennett1, Dr Julia Santana-Garcon1, Dr  Núria Marbà1, Dr Gabriel Jordà1,2, Dr Andrea Anton3, Dr Eugenia Apostolaki4, Dr Just Cebrian5,6, Dr Nathan Geraldi3, Dr Dorte Krause-Jensen7,8, Dr Catherine Lovelock9, Dr Paulina Martinetto10, Prof. John M. Pandolfi9, Prof Carlos M. Duarte3

1Global Change Research Group, Institut Mediterrani d’Estudis Avançats (IMEDEA), CSIC-UIB, Esporles, Spain, 2Instituto Espanol de Oceanografia (IEO), Centre Oceanografic de Balears  , Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 3Red Sea Research Center (RSRC), King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST),  Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, 4Institute of Oceanography, Hellenic Center for Marine Research, PO Box 2214, 71003, Heraklion , Greece, 5Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Dauphin Island, USA, 6Department of Marine Sciences, University of South Alabama,,  Mobile, USA, 7Arctic Research Centre, Bioscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, 8Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Silkeborg, Denmark, 9Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, 10Laboratorio de Ecologia, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC) CONICET-UNMdP, Mar de Plata, Argentina


Climate change and the introduction of exotic species in marine ecosystems are globally pervasive, yet their synergistic impacts remain poorly understood. Here we examine the relationship between thermal regimes in the range-of-origin of marine exotic species and their sites of establishment, following human-induced introduction. We compare this relationship to the magnitude of impact exerted by exotic species on native ecosystems. Recorded impacts predominantly occur in cooler conditions than the median temperatures experienced in their range-of-origin. Meanwhile, the severity exotic species impacts peak in sites where local temperatures reflect the median temperatures found in the exotic species range-of-origin, and decline with increasing dissimilarity between thermal regimes. Ocean warming is predicted to increase the frequency of severe ecological impacts over coming decades, as temperatures in recipient sites approach the optimal performance conditions for established exotic species, compounding the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems.


Dr Scott Bennett is a marine ecologist and postdoctoral fellow at the Mediterranean Institute of Advanced Studies, Mallorca, Spain. Scott works in coastal marine systems including kelp forests, coral reefs and seagrass meadows, spanning tropical, temperate and polar regions of the globe. His research focusses on the comparative ecology of marine communities across spatial and environmental gradients and closely integrates, community ecology, population biology, biogeography, evolutionary ecology, eco-physiology and physical oceanography.

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