Published July 1, 2014 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Biomass changes and trophic amplification of plankton in a warmer ocean

  • 1. AZTI-Tecnalia, Marine Research Division, Pasaia, Spain
  • 2. Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), Prospect Place, Plymouth, UK
  • 3. IPSL/LSCE (Lab. des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement), Orme des Merisiers, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 4. Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen (GFI-UIB), Bergen, Norway
  • 5. National Oceanography Centre, Liverpool, UK
  • 6. Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), Anavyssos, Greece
  • 7. Alma Mater Studiorum Universita' di Bologna, Dipartimento di Fisica e Astronomia, Viale Berti-Pichat 6/2, Bologna, Italy
  • 8. Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiale (LEGOS, UMR5566, IRD/CNES/CNRS/UPS), OMP, Toulouse, France
  • 9. Laboratoire de Physique des Océans (UMR6523, CNRS/Ifremer/IRD/UBO), Plouzané, France
  • 10. Institute of Marine Sciences, Middle East Technical University (METU), Erdemli-Mersin, Turkey
  • 11. Alma Mater Studiorum Universita' di Bologna sede di Ravenna, Centro Interdipartimentale di ricerca sulle Scienze Ambientali, Ravenna, Italy
  • 12. Red Sea Research Center, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia


Ocean warming can modify the ecophysiology and distribution of marine organisms, and relationships between species, with nonlinear interactions between ecosystem components potentially resulting in trophic amplification. Trophic amplification (or attenuation) describe the propagation of a hydroclimatic signal up the food web, causing magnification (or depression) of biomass values along one or more trophic pathways. We have employed 3-D coupled physical-biogeochemical models to explore ecosystem responses to climate change with a focus on trophic amplification. The response of phytoplankton and zooplankton to global climate-change projections, carried out with the IPSL Earth System Model by the end of the century, is analysed at global and regional basis, including European seas (NE Atlantic, Barents Sea, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Bay of Biscay, Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea) and the Eastern Boundary Upwelling System (Benguela). Results indicate that globally and in Atlantic Margin and North Sea, increased ocean stratification causes primary production and zooplankton biomass to decrease in response to a warming climate, whilst in the Barents, Baltic and Black Seas, primary production and zooplankton biomass increase. Projected warming characterized by an increase in sea surface temperature of 2.29 ± 0.05 °C leads to a reduction in zooplankton and phytoplankton biomasses of 11% and 6%, respectively. This suggests negative amplification of climate driven modifications of trophic level biomass through bottom-up control, leading to a reduced capacity of oceans to regulate climate through the biological carbon pump. Simulations suggest negative amplification is the dominant response across 47% of the ocean surface and prevails in the tropical oceans; whilst positive trophic amplification prevails in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans. Trophic attenuation is projected in temperate seas. Uncertainties in ocean plankton projections, associated to the use of single global and regional models, imply the need for caution when extending these considerations into higher trophic levels.



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EURO-BASIN – European Union Basin-scale Analysis, Synthesis and Integration (EURO-BASIN) 264933
European Commission