C. J. Brown, E. A. Fulton, A. J. Hobday, R. Matear, H. Possingham, C. Bulman, V. Christensen, R. Forrest, P. Gehrke, N. Gribble, S. Griffiths, S. H. Lozano-Montes, J. Martin, S. Metcalf, T. Okey, R. Watson, A. J. Richardson, (2010). Global Change Biology 16, 1194-1212.
Climate change is altering the rate and distribution of primary productivity in the world’s oceans. Predicting effects of changes in primary production on marine ecosystems and fisheries will assist the conservation of marine biodiversity and the sustainable management of fisheries. However, predicting the response of populations to primary production change is difficult, because inter-specific interactions can influence outcomes. We simulated the effects of change in primary production on Australian marine ecosystems across a wide latitudinal range using the marine food web model called ‘Ecosim’. We link models of primary production under climate change with Ecosim to predict changes in fishery catch, fishery value, abundance of animals of conservation interest, and indicators of community composition. Under a plausible climate change scenario, primary production will increase around Australia and generally this benefits fisheries catch and value and abundance of threatened marine animals such as turtles and sharks, but surprisingly, community composition was not strongly affected. However, ecological interactions reverse the expected responses for some populations, resulting in loss of value for some specific fisheries and localised declines for two threatened marine animal populations. We conclude that climate-driven primary production change should be considered by marine ecosystem managers and production increases can simultaneously benefit fisheries and conservation of biodiversity. Greater focus on incorporating biological interactions into management will significantly improve the ability to identify species and industries most at risk from climate change.