Mapping present and future potential distribution patterns for a meso-grazer guild in the Baltic Sea

Sonja Leidenberger, Renato De Giovanni, Robert Kulawik, Alan Williams, Sarah J. Bourlat

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Aim: The Baltic Sea is one of the world's largest semi-enclosed brackish water bodies characterized by many special features, including endemic species that may be particularly threatened by climate change. We mapped potential distribution patterns under present and future conditions for a community with three trophic levels. We analysed climate-induced changes in the species' distribution patterns and examined possible consequences for the chosen food web. Location: Baltic Sea and northern Europe. Methods: We developed two open-source workflow-based analytical tools: one for ecological niche modelling and another for raster layer comparison to compute the extent and intensity of change in species' potential distributions. Individual ecological niche models were generated under present conditions and then projected into a future climate change scenario (2050) for a food web consisting of a guild of meso-grazers (Idotea spp.), their host algae (Fucus vesiculosus and Fucus radicans) and their fish predator (Gasterosteus aculeatus). We used occurrence data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), literature and museum collections, together with five environmental layers at a resolution of 5 and 30 arc-minutes. Results: Habitat suitability for Idotea balthica and Idotea chelipes in the Baltic Sea seems to be mostly determined by temperature and ice cover rather than by salinity. 2050 predictions for all modelled species show a northern/north-eastern shift in the Baltic Sea. The distribution ranges for Idotea granulosa and G. aculeatus are predicted to become patchier in the Baltic than in the rest of northern Europe, where the species will gain more suitable habitats. Main conclusions: For the Baltic Sea, climate-induced changes resulted in a gain of suitable habitats for F. vesiculosus, I. chelipes and I. balthica, whereas lower habitat suitability was predicted for I. granulosa, F. radicans and G. aculeatus. The predicted north-eastern shift of I. balthica and I. chelipes into the distribution area of F. radicans in the Baltic Sea may result in increased grazing pressure. Such additional threats to isolated Baltic populations can lead to a higher extinction risk for the species, especially as climate changes are likely to be very rapid.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)241-254
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Biogeography
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


    • Fucus radicans
    • Fucus vesiculosus
    • Gasterosteus aculeatus
    • Idotea
    • Baltic Sea
    • Climate change
    • E-Science
    • Ecological niche modelling
    • Food web
    • Workflows


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