What is it about?
Recovery of the biota of rocky shores after losses from major perturbations such as marine heat waves has slowed through time, and become more variable, showing a higher frequency of extremes, raising concerns about potential catastrophic shifts to a lower diversity ecosystem.
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Why is it important?
These changes can all be attributed to climate change, specifically, warming impacts on ecological communities. This was a surprise because superficially these systems appeared stable, showing little evidence of change for decades. By testing the ability of the community to recover from losses likely to occur from severe temperature stresses, we found that the dynamics underlying the apparent stability of the system are worsening. Such insights are more difficult to obtain in many other ecosystems, where dominant organisms (e.g., trees) live a long time and require much lengthier times of investigation than is possible on rocky shores. Thus, this paper may offer a window into what the future holds more generally for Earth's biota.
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This page is a summary of: Increasing instability of a rocky intertidal meta-ecosystem, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2114257119.
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