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Ocean Warming Will Reduce Standing Biomass in a Tropical Western Atlantic Reef Ecosystem

Abstract

Ocean warming is altering life on Earth from individuals to ecosystems. The impacts on standing biomass and food webs functioning are less evident due to the paucity of data and difficulty to generate reliable models. We modeled the food web of a tropical near-pristine reef ecosystem and analyzed changes on living biomass across trophic levels as a response to ocean warming over the twenty-first century. By the end of the century, total standing biomass will decrease by 1%, 8% and 44% under different ocean warming scenarios (from reduced RCP 2.6 emission scenario to business-as-usual RCP 8.5 scenario). As total biomass decreases, the ecosystem structure shifts favoring invertivorous fishes, suspension feeding zooplankton, and algal turfs while corals collapse. The mean trophic transfer efficiency is expected to decrease by ~ 2% between 2012 and 2100 under the RCP 8.5, while biomass residence time (mean time that a unit of biomass remains in the ecosystem) will decrease by ~ 10%. Such food web degradation can alter the dominant biomass flow jeopardizing biomass replenishment, resulting in a less productive ecosystem with increasing dependency on pelagic energy subsidies, reducing the resilience of tropical reef ecosystems.

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Data Availability

The raw data and the R code for data analysis that support the findings of this study are freely available in the GitHub repository: https://github.com/leomarameo7/Atoll_Rocas_project. Biological parameters can be consulted in Fishbase website (https://www.fishbase.org) and AquaMaps (https://www.aquamaps.org/). Ecopath model file is available on request to the corresponding author.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Renato Morais for highly constructive comments on earlier version of this manuscript. We further thank Dr. Hubert du Pontavice to help us in the TTE and BRT indicators estimates. Thanks also to Dr. Terry Done, and two anonymous reviewers for their suggestions and improvements. We are extremely grateful to the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) for the Brazilian Long-Term Ecological Research Program (PELD) and to the PELD-ILOC team (http://peldiloc.sites.ufsc.br/) for al the effort in monitoring reef communities at Brazilian Oceanic Islands within this Program.

Funding

This work was supported by Serrapilheira Institute (grant number Serra-1708–15364 awarded to GOL) and PELD/ILOC (CNPq 441241/2016-6 awarded to CEL. Ferreira). Our work was supported in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior-Brazil (CAPES)—Finance Code 001 (PhD scholarship to LC and postdoctoral scholarship to EAV). GOL is also grateful to a research productivity scholarship provided by CNPq (grant number 310517/2019-2).

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Capitani, L., de Araujo, J.N., Vieira, E.A. et al. Ocean Warming Will Reduce Standing Biomass in a Tropical Western Atlantic Reef Ecosystem. Ecosystems 25, 843–857 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10021-021-00691-z

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Keywords

  • Ecopath with Ecosim
  • Marine ecosystem
  • Warming
  • Climate change
  • Food web simulations
  • Atoll