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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 488:11-22 (2013)  -  DOI:

Regional variation in the impact of climate change: evidence that bottom-up regulation from plankton to seabirds is weak in parts of the Northeast Atlantic

Valentina Lauria1,5,*, Martin J. Attrill2, Andrew Brown3, Martin Edwards4, Stephen C. Votier2

1Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, Davy Building, and 2Marine Institute, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
3Natural England, Touthill Close, City Road, Peterborough PE1 1UA, UK
4Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
5Present address: Martin Ryan Institute, Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

ABSTRACT: Climate change has profoundly altered the structure and biodiversity of marine ecosystems worldwide, and for many upper-trophic-level predators changes in lower-trophic-level prey has been the main driver of this alteration. To better understand the nature of marine ecosystem response to global change requires detailed knowledge of predator-prey dynamics, but this is hampered by our poor understanding of spatial variation in the strength of trophic linkages. The aim of this study was to test for bottom-up effects across 4 trophic levels (phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish larvae and seabirds) over 17 yr, as well as testing for regional differences in 3 distinct marine ecosystems of the Northeast Atlantic: the Irish Sea, the Celtic Sea and the English Channel, where sea surface temperature has increased substantially in recent decades. Our results showed little evidence of bottom-up regulation from phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish larvae and seabirds, which is in contrast with the nearby North Sea, probably due to different oceanographic conditions. Despite this, we found a significant positive relationship between kittiwake productivity and the abundance of fish larvae at one colony in the Irish Sea. We speculate that during the period 1991 to 2007 these ecosystems were weakly regulated by climate change, and seabird populations in these regions might be more heavily influenced by other extrinsic factors. The spatial effects of climate change appear to vary across ecosystems, even within a relatively small geographic area. In this context, we urge complex multi-trophic-level studies to elucidate the effect of climate impacts on marine ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Trophic linkages · Pelagic food web · Seabirds · Regional variability

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Cite this article as: Lauria V, Attrill MJ, Brown A, Edwards M, Votier SC (2013) Regional variation in the impact of climate change: evidence that bottom-up regulation from plankton to seabirds is weak in parts of the Northeast Atlantic. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 488:11-22.

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