Global change and marine communities: Alien species and climate change
Anthropogenic influences on the biosphere since the advent of the industrial age are increasingly causing global changes. Climatic change and the rising concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are ranking high in scientific and public agendas, and other components of global change are also frequently addressed, among which are the introductions of non indigenous species (NIS) in biogeographic regions well separated from the donor region, often followed by spectacular invasions. In the marine environment, both climatic change and spread of alien species have been studied extensively; this review is aimed at examining the main responses of ecosystems to climatic change, taking into account the increasing importance of biological invasions. Some general principles on NIS introductions in the marine environment are recalled, such as the importance of propagule pressure and of development stages during the time course of an invasion. Climatic change is known to affect many ecological properties; it interacts also with NIS in many possible ways. Direct (proximate) effects on individuals and populations of altered physical–chemical conditions are distinguished from indirect effects on emergent properties (species distribution, diversity, and production). Climatically driven changes may affect both local dispersal mechanisms, due to the alteration of current patterns, and competitive interactions between NIS and native species, due to the onset of new thermal optima and/or different carbonate chemistry. As well as latitudinal range expansions of species correlated with changing temperature conditions, and effects on species richness and the correlated extinction of native species, some invasions may provoke multiple effects which involve overall ecosystem functioning (material flow between trophic groups, primary production, relative extent of organic material decomposition, extent of benthic-pelagic coupling). Some examples are given, including a special mention of the situation of the Mediterranean Sea, where so many species have been introduced recently, and where some have spread in very large quantities. An increasing effort by marine scientists is required, not only to monitor the state of the environment, but also to help predicting future changes and finding ways to mitigate or manage them.