Abstract

Imagine you are a young and hungry fish looking for food in an estuary (the part of a river where it meets the ocean). You need to grow big and strong before you migrate to the ocean, and depend on tiny floating creatures (plankton) for food. However, the occurrence of these tiny creatures in the estuary varies seasonally. Lucky for you, nature has synchronized both your time in the estuary and that of your prey, and you survive. This synchronization depends on many different factors, among them the temperature of the water. Now imagine someone turning up the heat (like we humans are doing by changing the climate). Could the rising water temperatures mess up the timing for you, the predator, and your prey? To answer this question we looked at climate-related changes in the synchronization of predator and prey in the biggest estuary in Western Europe. And indeed, we found signs of temporal mismatches in its aquatic food web. We fear that the observed changes can put this important ecosystem and its role as a big fish nursery at risk.

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About this article

Summary of research
Scientists wanted to know how climate change affects the relationship between predatory fish and their plankton prey in an estuary.
Reading level
Scientific field
Key words
Scientific methods
Type of figure
AP Environmental science topics
IB Biology topics
Location of research
Scientist Affiliation
Publication date
October 2017

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