The Earth is currently undergoing a level of atmospheric warming unprecedented in historical times. Research to date on the biological impacts of climate change has largely focused on the phenology and physiology of individuals, as well as changes in species range shifts and distributions. However, impacts of environmental stress on higher levels of organisation such as communities and ecosystems cannot be predicted from effects on individual organisms alone. As such, it is imperative that we consider the consequences of future climate change scenarios on the structure and complexity of whole systems. Most studies investigating climate change impacts at the community level are limited by the use of tightly-controlled laboratory conditions or tend to be temporally or spatially confounded. Here, we overcome these limitations by using a geothermal stream system to show that warming simplifies ecological network structure and alters the flow of energy through food webs. These effects will have profound consequences for stability, resilience to extinction, and the continued delivery of ecosystem services. Given the universal projections of rapid warming over the coming century, these results provide an early warning signal of impending ecological change.


O'Gorman, E. J., Imperial College London, United Kingdom, e.ogorman@imperial.ac.uk

Pichler, D. E., Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom, d.e.pichler@qmul.ac.uk

Petchey, O. L., University of Zurich, Switzerland, owen.petchey@ieu.uzh.ch

Woodward, G. W., Imperial College London, United Kingdom, guy.woodward@imperial.ac.uk


Oral presentation

Session #:016
Date: 5/20/2014
Time: 16:45
Location: B 117 - 119

Presentation is given by student: No