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Mapping present and future potential distribution patterns for a meso-grazer guild in the Baltic Sea

: Leidenberger, S.; Giovanni, R. de; Kulawik, R.; Williams, A.R.; Bourlat, S.J.


Journal of biogeography 42 (2015), No.2, pp.241-254
ISSN: 0305-0270
ISSN: 1365-2699
European Commission EC
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IAIS ()

Aim The Baltic Sea is one of the world's largest semi-enclosed brackish water bodies characterized by many special features, including endemic species that may be particularly threatened by climate change. We mapped potential distribution patterns under present and future conditions for a community with three trophic levels. We analysed climate-induced changes in the species' distribution patterns and examined possible consequences for the chosen food web. Location Baltic Sea and northern Europe. Methods We developed two open-source workflow-based analytical tools: one for ecological niche modelling and another for raster layer comparison to compute the extent and intensity of change in species' potential distributions. Individual ecological niche models were generated under present conditions and then projected into a future climate change scenario (2050) for a food web consisting of a guild of meso-grazers (Idotea spp.), their host algae (Fucus vesiculosus and Fucus radicans) and their fish predator (Gasterosteus aculeatus). We used occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), literature and museum collections, together with five environmental layers at a resolution of 5 and 30 arc-minutes. Results Habitat suitability for Idotea balthica and Idotea chelipes in the Baltic Sea seems to be mostly determined by temperature and ice cover rather than by salinity. 2050 predictions for all modelled species show a northern/northeastern shift in the Baltic Sea. The distribution ranges for Idotea granulosa and G. aculeatus are predicted to become patchier in the Baltic than in the rest of northern Europe, where the species will gain more suitable habitats. Main conclusions For the Baltic Sea, climate-induced changes resulted in a gain of suitable habitats for F. vesiculosus, I. chelipes and I. balthica, whereas lower habitat suitability was predicted for I. granulosa, F. radicans and G. aculeatus. The predicted north-eastern shift of I. balthica and I. chelipes into the distribution area of F. radicans in the Baltic Sea may result in increased grazing pressure. Such additional threats to isolated Baltic populations can lead to a higher extinction risk for the species, especially as climate changes are likely to be very rapid.