• Climate change;
  • exotic species;
  • introduced species;
  • invasion;
  • invasion impacts;
  • invasive;
  • marine systems;
  • non-indigenous species;
  • range shift;
  • spread rate


Aim  Shifts in species ranges are a predicted and realized effect of global climate change; however, few studies have addressed the rates and consequence of such shifts, particularly in marine systems. Given ecological similarities between shifting and introduced species, we examined how our understanding of range shifts may be informed by the more established study of non-native species introductions.

Location  Marine systems world-wide.

Methods  Database and citation searches were used to identify 129 marine species experiencing range shifts and to determine spread rates and impacts on recipient communities. Analyses of spread rates were based on studies for which post-establishment spread was reported in linear distance. The sizes of the effects of community impacts of shifting species were compared with those of functionally similar introduced species having ecologically similar impacts.

Results  Our review and meta-analyses revealed that: (1) 75% of the range shifts found through the database search were in the poleward direction, consistent with climate change scenarios, (2) spread rates of range shifts were lower than those of introductions, (3) shifting species spread over an order of magnitude faster in marine than in terrestrial systems, and (4) directions of community effects were largely negative and magnitudes were often similar for shifters and introduced species; however, this comparison was limited by few data for range-shifting species.

Main conclusions  Although marine range shifts are likely to proceed more slowly than marine introductions, the community-level effects could be as great, and in the same direction, as those of introduced species. Because it is well-established that introduced species are a primary threat to global biodiversity, it follows that, just like introductions, range shifts have the potential to seriously affect biological systems. In addition, given that ranges shift faster in marine than terrestrial environments, marine communities might be affected faster than terrestrial ones as species shift with climate change. Regardless of habitat, consideration of range shifts in the context of invasion biology can improve our understanding of what to expect from climate change-driven shifts as well as provide tools for formal assessment of risks to community structure and function.