Meta-analysis reveals complex marine biological responses to the interactive effects of ocean acidification and warming

Ben P. Harvey, Dylan Gwynn-Jones, Pippa J. Moore

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328 Citations (SciVal)


Ocean acidification and warming are considered two of the greatest threats to marine biodiversity, yet the combined effect of these stressors on marine organisms remains largely unclear. Using a meta-analytical approach we assessed the biological responses of marine organisms to the effects of ocean acidification and warming in isolation and combination. As expected biological responses varied across taxonomic groups, life-history stages and trophic levels, but importantly, combining stressors generally exhibited a stronger biological (either positive or negative) effect. Using a subset of orthogonal studies we show that four out of five of the biological responses measured (calcification, photosynthesis, reproduction and survival, but not growth) interacted synergistically when warming and acidification were combined. The observed synergisms between interacting stressors suggest that care must be made in making inferences from single-stressor studies. Our findings clearly have implications for the development of adaptive management strategies particularly given that the frequency of stressors interacting in marine systems will be likely to intensify in the future. There is now an urgent need to move towards more robust, holistic and ecologically realistic climate-change experiments that incorporate interactions. Without them accurate predictions about the likely deleterious impacts to marine biodiversity and ecosystem functioning over the next century will not be possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1016–1030
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number4
Early online date07 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Climate change
  • meta-analysis
  • multiple stressors
  • ocean acidification
  • ocean warming
  • synergistic interactions


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