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Going with the flow: the role of ocean circulation in global marine ecosystems under a changing climate

van Gennip, Simon J., Popova, Ekaterina E., Yool, Andrew, Pecl, Gretta T., Hobday, Alistair J., Sorte, Cascade J. B.
Global change biology 2017 v.23 no.7 pp. 2602-2617
acidification, carbon dioxide, climate change, coasts, emissions, marine ecosystems, models, oceans, plankton
Ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation and reduced productivity are widely considered to be the major stressors to ocean ecosystems induced by emissions of CO₂. However, an overlooked stressor is the change in ocean circulation in response to climate change. Strong changes in the intensity and position of the western boundary currents have already been observed, and the consequences of such changes for ecosystems are beginning to emerge. In this study, we address climatically induced changes in ocean circulation on a global scale but relevant to propagule dispersal for species inhabiting global shelf ecosystems, using a high‐resolution global ocean model run under the IPCC RCP 8.5 scenario. The ¼ degree model resolution allows improved regional realism of the ocean circulation beyond that of available CMIP5‐class models. We use a Lagrangian approach forced by modelled ocean circulation to simulate the circulation pathways that disperse planktonic life stages. Based on trajectory backtracking, we identify present‐day coastal retention, dominant flow and dispersal range for coastal regions at the global scale. Projecting into the future, we identify areas of the strongest projected circulation change and present regional examples with the most significant modifications in their dominant pathways. Climatically induced changes in ocean circulation should be considered as an additional stressor of marine ecosystems in a similar way to ocean warming or acidification.