Impacts of Climate Change on Marine Foundation Species

Thomas Wernberg, Mads S. Thomsen, Julia K. Baum, Melanie J. Bishop, John F. Bruno, Melinda A. Coleman, Karen Filbee-Dexter, Karine Gagnon, Qiang He, Daniel Murdiyarso, Kerrylee Rogers, Brian R. Silliman, Dan A. Smale, Samuel Starko, Mathew A. Vanderklift

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Marine foundation species are the biotic basis for many of the world's coastal ecosystems, providing structural habitat, food, and protection for myriad plants and animals as well as many ecosystem services. However, climate change poses a significant threat to foundation species and the ecosystems they support. We review the impacts of climate change on common marine foundation species, including corals, kelps, seagrasses, salt marsh plants, mangroves, and bivalves. It is evident that marine foundation species have already been severely impacted by several climate change drivers, often through interactive effects with other human stressors, such as pollution, overfishing, and coastal development. Despite considerable variation in geographical, environmental, and ecological contexts, direct and indirect effects of gradual warming and subsequent heatwaves have emerged as the most pervasive drivers of observed impact and potent threat across all marine foundation species, but effects from sea level rise, ocean acidification, and increased storminess are expected to increase. Documented impacts include changes in the genetic structures, physiology, abundance, and distribution of the foundation species themselves and changes to their interactions with other species, with flow-on effects to associated communities, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning. We discuss strategies to support marine foundation species into the Anthropocene, in order to increase their resilience and ensure the persistence of the ecosystem services they provide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)247-282
Number of pages36
JournalAnnual Review of Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2024


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