Climate-driven changes in functional biogeography of Arctic marine fish communities
The distribution of fish species in the Barents Sea is changing due to increasing temperatures and reduced sea ice cover. We were eager to know if shifts in species composition and distribution are also reflected in changes in ecosystem functioning, i.e., in the way important biological and biogeochemical processes work. The warmer temperatures and reduction in sea ice coverage are rapidly altering how marine communities function in the Barents Sea. The rapid changes in functional characteristics of Arctic communities indicate that it is not only the species that are changing, as previous studies had shown, but the way the ecosystem functions is also changing. The functional characteristics associated with warmer boreal fish species are quickly replacing the functional characteristics associated with the colder Arctic fish species. Boreal and Arctic communities each previously covered about 50% of the Barents Sea, but the Arctic communities were reduced to 20% of the region during the recent warming period.