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Do distributional shifts of northern and southern species of algae match the warming pattern?

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Well-documented changes in species abundances and distributions coinciding with global warming have been increasing during recent years. A trend of raising sea-surface temperature has also been observed along the Portuguese coast which could affect intertidal species' ranges. The present study aimed at evaluating the direction and intensity of distribution changes of macroalgae in the area. The last 50-year trend of coastal air and sea temperature was reassessed, providing an accurate estimate of the warming process. Information on species' range shifts was obtained by comparing data from recent resurveys with historical records of algal distributions collected during the 1950s and 1960s. Although a prevalence of northward migrations was anticipated, this work showed a marked difference in the average direction of changes between cold- and warm-water species. Cold-water species, when considered together, showed no particular shifting trend, because the number of species that shifted north or south was the same. Contrarily, all shifting warm-water species expanded their range northwards. Therefore, generalizations about poleward range shifts due to increasing temperature should be made with caution.

Keywords: Portugal; air temperature; biogeography; climate change; intertidal macroalgae; range limit; rocky shores; sea surface temperature

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-12-01

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