How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Genetic Adaptation to Warming Revealed in Study of Water Fleas
De Meester, L., Van Doorslaer, W., Geerts, A., Orsini, L. and Stoks, R. 2011. Thermal genetic adaptation in the water flea Daphnia and its impact: An evolving metacommunity approach. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51: 703-718.

Based on their own experience and the findings of many others, the authors write that "in most research and models predicting the potential geographic distribution of species under current and future climatic scenarios (so-called 'bio-climate envelopes'), evolutionary responses are ignored (e.g., Pearson and Dawson, 2003)," and they note that this ignorance "is likely to lead to wrong predictions," citing the work of Pearson et al. (2006) and Skelly et al. (2007).

What was done
De Meester et al., as they describe it, integrated "previously published results on experimental evolution trials with follow-up experiments involving the water flea Daphnia as a model system." This they accomplished via "(1) experimental evolution trials in the absence and presence of the community of competitors, predators and parasites, (2) life-table and competition experiments to assess the fitness consequences of micro-evolution, and (3) competition experiments with putative immigrant genotypes," which approach "integrates both local and regional responses at both the population and community levels."

What was learned
In the words of the five researchers - all of whom hail from the Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology and Evolutionary Biology of Belgium's Katholieke Universiteit Leuven - "overall, our results suggest that genetic adaptation may occur rapidly and is likely to have far-reaching ecological consequences (see also Jones et al., 2009; Pelletier et al., 2009)."

What it means
Noting that their findings "provide evidence for rapid and adaptive micro-evolutionary responses to increases in temperature, and show that these genetic changes are likely to impact ecological responses to global warming," De Meester et al. say there is a need "to broaden our knowledge of evolutionary responses to climatic change by including [1] a wider range of organisms, systems and conditions, [2] the possibilities offered by new approaches and techniques, and [3] the need to further study ecological implications of micro-evolutionary responses to climatic change." Clearly, the old climate envelope approach is simply too simple to adequately deal with the incredible complexity of the real world of nature.

Jones, L.E., Becks, L., Ellner, S.P., Hairston, N.G., Yoshida, T. and Fussmann, G.F. 2009. Rapid contemporary evolution and clonal food web dynamics. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 364: 1579-1591.

Pearson, R.G. and Dawson, T.P. 2003. Predicting the impacts of climate change on the distribution of species: are bioclimate envelope models useful? Global Ecology and Biogeography 12: 361-171.

Pearson, R.G., Thuiller, W., Araujo, M.B., Martinez-Meyer, E., Brotons, L., McClean, C., Miles, L., Segurado, P., Dawson, T.P. and Lees, D.C. 2006. Model-based uncertainty in species range prediction. Journal of Biogeography 33: 1704-1711.

Pelletier, F., Garant, D. and Hendry, A.P. 2009. Eco-evolutionary dynamics introduction. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 364: 1483-1489.

Skelly, D.K., Joseph, L.N., Possingham, H.P., Freidenburg, L.K., Farrugia, T.J., Kinnison, M.T. and Hendry, A.P. 2007. Evolutionary responses to climate change. Conservation Biology 21: 1353-1355.

Reviewed 1 February 2012