Decadal changes in the world's coastal latitudinal temperature gradients

TitleDecadal changes in the world's coastal latitudinal temperature gradients
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsBaumann H., Doherty O.
JournalPlos One
Date Published2013/06
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1932-6203
Accession NumberWOS:000320576400190
Keywordsclimate-change; contrasting patterns; countergradient; diversity; geographic-variation; gradient; marine gastropod; menidia-menidia; north-atlantic; range shifts; sea-surface temperature; variation

Most of the world's living marine resources inhabit coastal environments, where average thermal conditions change predictably with latitude. These coastal latitudinal temperature gradients (CLTG) coincide with important ecological clines,e.g., in marine species diversity or adaptive genetic variations, but how tightly thermal and ecological gradients are linked remains unclear. A first step is to consistently characterize the world's CLTGs. We extracted coastal cells from a global 1 degrees x 1 degrees dataset of weekly sea surface temperatures (SST, 1982-2012) to quantify spatial and temporal variability of the world's 11 major CLTGs. Gradient strength, i.e., the slope of the linear mean-SST/latitude relationship, varied 3-fold between the steepest (North-American Atlantic and Asian Pacific gradients: -0.91 degrees C and -0.68 degrees C lat(-1), respectively) and weakest CLTGs (African Indian Ocean and the South- and North-American Pacific gradients: -0.28, -0.29, -0.32 degrees C lat(-1), respectively). Analyzing CLTG strength by year revealed that seven gradients have weakened by 3-10% over the past three decades due to increased warming at high compared to low latitudes. Almost the entire South- American Pacific gradient (6-47 degrees S), however, has considerably cooled over the study period (-0.3 to -1.7 degrees C, 31 years), and the substantial weakening of the North-American Atlantic gradient (-10%) was due to warming at high latitudes (42-60 degrees N, +0.8 to +1.6 degrees C, 31 years) and significant mid-latitude cooling ( Florida to Cape Hatteras 26-35 degrees N, -0.5 to -2.2 degrees C, 31 years). Average SST trends rarely resulted from uniform shifts throughout the year; instead individual seasonal warming or cooling patterns elicited the observed changes in annual means. This is consistent with our finding of increased seasonality (i.e., summer-winter SST amplitude) in three quarters of all coastal cells (331 of 433). Our study highlights the regionally variable footprint of global climate change, while emphasizing ecological implications of changing CLTGs, which are likely driving observed spatial and temporal clines in coastal marine life.

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