Mechanisms driving change: altered species interactions and ecosystem function through global warming

Authors

  • Lochran W. Traill,

    1. The Environment Institute and School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
    2. The Ecology Centre, University of Queensland, Brisbane 4072, Australia
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  • Matthew L. M. Lim,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, 117543, Singapore
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  • Navjot S. Sodhi,

    1. Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, 14 Science Drive 4, 117543, Singapore
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  • Corey J. A. Bradshaw

    Corresponding author
    1. The Environment Institute and School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
    2. South Australian Research and Development Institute, P.O. Box 120, Henley Beach, South Australia 5022, Australia
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Correspondence author. E-mail: corey.bradshaw@adelaide.edu.au

Summary

1. We review the mechanisms behind ecosystem functions, the processes that facilitate energy transfer along food webs, and the major processes that allow the cycling of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen, and use case studies to show how these have already been, and will continue to be, altered by global warming.

2. Increased temperatures will affect the interactions between heterotrophs and autotrophs (e.g. pollination and seed dispersal), and between heterotrophs (e.g. predators-prey, parasites/pathogens-hosts), with generally negative ramifications for important ecosystem services (functions that provide direct benefit to human society such as pollination) and potential for heightened species co-extinction rates.

3. Mitigation of likely impacts of warming will require, in particular, the maintenance of species diversity as insurance for the provision of basic ecosystem services. Key to this will be long-term monitoring and focused research that seek to maintain ecosystem resilience in the face of global warming.

4. We provide guidelines for pursuing research that quantifies the nexus between ecosystem function and global warming. These include documentation of key functional species groups within systems, and understanding the principal outcomes arising from direct and indirect effects of a rapidly warming environment. Localized and targeted research and monitoring, complemented with laboratory work, will determine outcomes for resilience and guide adaptive conservation responses and long-term planning.

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