Climate change Tightens a metabolic Constraint on marine Habitats

Warming of the oceans and consequent loss of dissolved oxygen (O2) will alter marine ecosystems, but a mechanistic framework to predict the impact of multiple stressors on viable habitat is lacking. 

Here, Curtis Deutsch (from the School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle) et al. integrates physiological, climatic, and biogeographic data to calibrate and then map a key metabolic index—the ratio of O2 supply to resting metabolic O2 demand—across geographic ranges of several marine ectotherms.

These species differ in thermal and hypoxic tolerances, but their contemporary distributions are all bounded at the equatorward edge by a minimum metabolic index of ~2 to 5, indicative of a critical energetic requirement for organismal activity. The combined effects of warming and O2 loss this century are projected to reduce the upper ocean’s metabolic index by ~20% globally and by ~50% in northern high-latitude regions, forcing poleward and vertical contraction of metabolically viable habitats and species ranges.

Source: Sciencemag