Climate Change Leads to Food Chain Collapse

Written by on October 21, 2015 in Other News

New research suggests that climate change will “simplify” our oceans to the point of collapse.

Coral outcrop in the Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: Toby Hudson, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Coral outcrop in the Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: Toby Hudson, CC BY-SA 3.0.

A study from the University of Adelaide suggests that ocean acidification and warming waters will decrease diversity and lead to a reduction in the number of important species that are critical to marine ecosystems around the world.

“This ‘simplification’ of our oceans will have profound consequences for our current way of life, particularly for coastal populations and those that rely on oceans for food and trade,” Associate Professor Ivan Nagelkerken, Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellow with the University’s Environment Institute, explained in a news release.

These findings come from an analysis of 632 published experiments about our changing oceans, covering water from the tropics to the poles and a wide range of ecosystems, from coral reefs to the open ocean.

Professor Sean Connell explained that even with all these individual experiments, we still don’t really know how climate change will affect the marine environment. By combining the results of the more than 600 studies, this study allowed researchers to examine the overall effect of climate change on whole communities and how different species and ecosystems will respond to change.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Very few species will escape the negative effects of increasing CO2
  • Species diversity and abundance will decrease worldwide
  • Microorganisms are expected to increase in number and diversity
  • Primary production (plankton) will increase, but this trend won’t continue up the food chain
  • There will be a “mismatch” in food availability — not enough food for animals higher up the food chain — which will impact commercial fisheries
    • This will lead to “a species collapse from the top of the food chain down”
  • Corals, oysters, mussels, and other habitat-building organisms will struggle, leading to a decrease in overall ecosystem health
  • The ocean’s role in controlling Earth’s heat exchange will also change
The arrays are being used in a fish pen to study how herring (pictured) react to sound.

The arrays are being used in a fish pen to study how herring (pictured) react to sound. Photo credit: @boetter via photopin cc

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Copyright © 2015 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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