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Evidence of ocean warming effects on a commercial fishery through the destabilisation of critical trophic interactions

Worldwide, rising ocean temperatures are causing declines and range shifts in marine species. The direct effects of climate change on the biology of marine organisms are often well documented; yet, knowledge on the indirect effects, particularly through trophic interactions, is largely lacking. Recently, the EcoGenetics team and research partners reported evidence of ocean warming decoupling critical trophic interactions supporting a commercial fishery in the journal Global Change Biology. Specifically, dietary assessments of the Australian blacklip abalone (Haliotis rubra) using genomic methods indicate primary dependency on a widespread macroalgal species (Phyllospora comosa) which we shown to be in state of decline due to ocean warming, resulting in abalone biomass reductions. The use of niche models suggest further declines in P. comosa over the coming decades and ongoing risks to H. rubra biomass. This study highlights the importance of studies from climate change hotspots and understanding the interplay between climate and trophic interactions when determining the likely response of marine species to environmental changes.

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