The resilience of marine ecosystems to climatic disturbances

The intensity and frequency of climate-driven disturbances are increasing in coastal marine ecosystems. Understanding the factors that enhance or inhibit ecosystem resilience to climatic disturbance is essential. We surveyed 97 experts in six major coastal biogenic ecosystem types to identify “bright spots” of resilience in the face of climate change. We also evaluated literature that was recommended by the experts that addresses the responses of habitat-forming species to climatic disturbance. Resilience was commonly reported in the expert surveys (80% of experts). Resilience was observed in all ecosystem types and at multiple locations worldwide. The experts and literature cited remaining biogenic habitat, recruitment/connectivity, physical setting, and management of local-scale stressors as most important for resilience. These findings suggest that coastal ecosystems may still hold great potential to persist in the face of climate change and that local- to regional-scale management can help buffer global climatic impacts.

O’Leary J. K., Micheli F., Airoldi L., Boch C., De Leo G., Elahi R., Ferretti F., Graham N. A. J., Litvin S. Y., Low N. H., Lummis S., Nickols K. J. & Wong J., in press. The resilience of marine ecosystems to climatic disturbances. BioScience. Article.

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