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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 423:69-82 (2011)  -  DOI:

Temporal differences across a bio-geographical boundary reveal slow response of sub-littoral benthos to climate change

H. Hinz1,2,*, E. Capasso1,2, M. Lilley2,3, M. Frost2, S. R. Jenkins1,2

1School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK
2Marine Biological Association of the UK, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
3Department of Biological Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
*Address for correspondence: Menai Bridge. Email:

ABSTRACT: The English Channel is located at the biogeographical boundary between the northern Boreal and southern Lusitanian biozones and therefore represents an important area to study the effects of global warming on marine organisms. While the consequences of climatic change in the western English Channel have been relatively well documented for fish, plankton and inter-tidal benthic communities, data highlighting the same effects on the distribution of sub-littoral benthic organisms does, to date, not exist. The present study resurveyed a subset of sites originally surveyed from 1958 to 1959 along the UK coast of the English Channel. The main aims of this resurvey were to describe the present status of benthic communities and to investigate potential temporal changes, in particular distributional changes in western stenothermal ‘cold’ water and southern Lusitanian ‘warm’ water species. The increase in water temperature observed since the historic survey was predicted to have caused a contraction in the distribution of cold water species and an extension in the distribution of warm water species. The temporal comparison did not show any clear broad-scale distributional changes in benthic communities consistent with these predictions. Nevertheless, 2 warm water species, the sting winkle Ocenebra erinacea and the introduced American slipper limpet Crepidula fornicata, did show range extensions and increased occurrence, possibly related to climatic warming. Similarly, warm water species previously not recorded by the historic survey were found. The absence of broad-scale temporal differences in sub-tidal communities in response to climatic warming has been reported for other areas and may indicate that these communities respond far more slowly to environmental changes compared to plankton, fish and inter-tidal organisms.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Range-shifts · Benthic macro-fauna · Non-native species · English Channel · Long term monitoring

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Cite this article as: Hinz H, Capasso E, Lilley M, Frost M, Jenkins SR (2011) Temporal differences across a bio-geographical boundary reveal slow response of sub-littoral benthos to climate change. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 423:69-82.

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