Predicting evolutionary responses to climate change in the sea

An increasing number of short-term experimental studies show significant effects of projected ocean warming and ocean acidification on the performance on marine organisms. Yet, it remains unclear if we can reliably predict the impact of climate change on marine populations and ecosystems, because we lack sufficient understanding of the capacity for marine organisms to adapt to rapid climate change. In this review, we emphasise why an evolutionary perspective is crucial to understanding climate change impacts in the sea and examine the approaches that may be useful for addressing this challenge. We first consider what the geological record and present-day analogues of future climate conditions can tell us about the potential for adaptation to climate change. We also examine evidence that phenotypic plasticity may assist marine species to persist in a rapidly changing climate. We then outline the various experimental approaches that can be used to estimate evolutionary potential, focusing on molecular tools, quantitative genetics, and experimental evolution, and we describe the benefits of combining different approaches to gain a deeper understanding of evolutionary potential. Our goal is to provide a platform for future research addressing the evolutionary potential for marine organisms to cope with climate change.

Munday P. L., Warner R. R., Monro K., Pandolfi J. M. & Marshall D. J., 2013. Predicting evolutionary responses to climate change in the sea. Ecology Letters 16:1488-1500. Article.

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