Global vulnerability of marine mammals to global warming

Although extinctions due to climate change are still uncommon, they might surpass those caused by habitat loss or overexploitation over the next few decades. Among marine megafauna, mammals fulfill key and irreplaceable ecological roles in the ocean, and the collapse of their populations may therefore have irreversible consequences for ecosystem functioning and services. Using a trait-based approach, we assessed the vulnerability of all marine mammals to global warming under high and low greenhouse gas emission scenarios for the middle and the end of the 21st century. We showed that the North Pacific Ocean, the Greenland Sea and the Barents Sea host the species that are most vulnerable to global warming. Future conservation plans should therefore focus on these regions, where there are long histories of overexploitation and there are high levels of current threats to marine mammals. Among the most vulnerable marine mammals were several threatened species, such as the North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica) and the dugong (Dugong dugon), that displayed unique combinations of functional traits. Beyond species loss, we showed that the potential extinctions of the marine mammals that were most vulnerable to global warming might induce a disproportionate loss of functional diversity, which may have profound impacts on the future functioning of marine ecosystems worldwide.

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Albouy Camille, Delattre Valentine, Donati Giulia, Frölicher Thomas L., Albouy-Boyer Severine, Rufino Marta, Pellissier Loïc, Mouillot David, Leprieur Fabien (2020). Global vulnerability of marine mammals to global warming. Scientific Reports. 10 (1). 548 (12p.).,

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