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Climate change drives widespread shifts in lake thermal habitat

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Published: 3 June 2021
Nature Climate Change , Volume 11, pp 521-529; doi:10.1038/s41558-021-01060-3

Abstract: Lake surfaces are warming worldwide, raising concerns about lake organism responses to thermal habitat changes. Species may cope with temperature increases by shifting their seasonality or their depth to track suitable thermal habitats, but these responses may be constrained by ecological interactions, life histories or limiting resources. Here we use 32 million temperature measurements from 139 lakes to quantify thermal habitat change (percentage of non-overlap) and assess how this change is exacerbated by potential habitat constraints. Long-term temperature change resulted in an average 6.2% non-overlap between thermal habitats in baseline (1978–1995) and recent (1996–2013) time periods, with non-overlap increasing to 19.4% on average when habitats were restricted by season and depth. Tropical lakes exhibited substantially higher thermal non-overlap compared with lakes at other latitudes. Lakes with high thermal habitat change coincided with those having numerous endemic species, suggesting that conservation actions should consider thermal habitat change to preserve lake biodiversity.
Keywords: lakes / shifts / thermal habitat change / overlap / depth

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