Keystone predators govern the pathway and pace of climate impacts in a subarctic marine ecosystem

Science
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Abstract

Predator loss and climate change are hallmarks of the Anthropocene yet their interactive effects are largely unknown. Here, we show that massive calcareous reefs, built slowly by the alga Clathromorphum nereostratum over centuries to millennia, are now declining because of the emerging interplay between these two processes. Such reefs, the structural base of Aleutian kelp forests, are rapidly eroding because of overgrazing by herbivores. Historical reconstructions and experiments reveal that overgrazing was initiated by the loss of sea otters, Enhydra lutris (which gave rise to herbivores capable of causing bioerosion), and then accelerated with ocean warming and acidification (which increased per capita lethal grazing by 34 to 60% compared with preindustrial times). Thus, keystone predators can mediate the ways in which climate effects emerge in nature and the pace with which they alter ecosystems.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Keystone predators govern the pathway and pace of climate impacts in a subarctic marine ecosystem
Series title Science
DOI 10.1126/science.aav7515
Volume 369
Issue 6509
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher American Association for the Advancement of Science
Contributing office(s) Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB
Description 4 p.
First page 1351
Last page 1354
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