Climate change impact on seaweed meadow distribution in the North Atlantic rocky intertidal
ascophyllum, ecological niche models, fucus, geographic distribution, global warming, intertidal, macroalgae, species distribution
The North-Atlantic has warmed faster than all other ocean basins and climate change scenarios predict sea surface temperature isotherms to shift up to 600 km northwards by the end of the 21st century. The pole-ward shift has already begun for many temperate seaweed species that are important intertidal foundation species. We asked the question: Where will climate change have the greatest impact on three foundational, macroalgal species that occur along North-Atlantic shores: Fucus serratus, Fucus vesiculosus, and Ascophyllum nodosum? To predict distributional changes of these key species under three IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climate change scenarios (A2, A1B, and B1) over the coming two centuries, we generated Ecological Niche Models with the program MAXENT. Model predictions suggest that these three species will shift northwards as an assemblage or "unit" and that phytogeographic changes will be most pronounced in the southern Arctic and the southern temperate provinces. Our models predict that Arctic shores in Canada, Greenland, and Spitsbergen will become suitable for all three species by 2100. Shores south of 45° North will become unsuitable for at least two of the three focal species on both the Northwest- and Northeast-Atlantic coasts by 2200. If these foundational species are unable to adapt to the rising temperatures, they will lose their centers of genetic diversity and their loss will trigger an unpredictable shift in the North-Atlantic intertidal ecosystem.