Effects of climate change on coastal ecosystem food webs: implications for aquaculture


  • Food web models and scenarios were used to forecast effects of climate change.
  • Modeled bays were vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
  • In two of three study bays the ability to support bivalve aquaculture disappeared.


Coastal ecosystems provide important ecosystem services for millions of people. Climate change is modifying coastal ecosystem food web structure and function and threatens these essential ecosystem services. We used a combination of two new and one existing ecosystem food web models and altered scenarios that are possible with climate change to quantify the impacts of climate change on ecosystem stability in three coastal bays in Maine, United States. We also examined the impact of climate change on bivalve fisheries and aquaculture. Our modeled scenarios explicitly considered the predicted effects of future climatic change and human intervention and included: 1) the influence of increased terrestrial dissolved organic carbon loading on phytoplankton biomass; 2) benthic community change driven by synergisms between climate change, historical overfishing, and increased species invasion; and 3) altered trophic level energy transfer driven by ocean warming and acidification. The effects of climate change strongly negatively influenced ecosystem energy flow and ecosystem stability and negatively affected modeled bivalve carrying capacity in each of our models along the Maine coast of the eastern United States. Our results suggest that the interconnected nature of ecosystem food webs make them extremely vulnerable to synergistic effects of climate change. To better inform fisheries and aquaculture management, the effects of climate change must be explicitly incorporated.

Chapman E. J., Byron C. J., Lasley-Rasher R., Lipsky C., Stevens J. R. & Peters R., 2020. Effects of climate change on coastal ecosystem food webs: implications for aquaculture. Marine Environmental Research 162: 105103. doi: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2020.105103. Article.

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