Modelling benthic macrofauna and seagrass distribution patterns in a North Sea tidal basin in response to 2050 climatic and environmental scenarios


Small-scale spatial distribution patterns of seven macrofauna species, seagrass beds and mixed mussel/oyster reefs were modelled for the Jade Bay (North Sea, Germany) in response to climatic and environmental scenarios (representing 2050). For the species distribution models four presence-absence modelling methods were merged within the ensemble forecasting platform ‘biomod2’. The present spatial distribution (representing 2009) was modelled by statistically related species presences, true species absences and six high-resolution environmental grids. The future spatial distribution was then predicted in response to expected climate change-induced ongoing (1) sea-level rise and (2) water temperature increase. Between 2009 and 2050, the present and future prediction maps revealed a significant range gain for two macrofauna species (Macoma balthica, Tubificoides benedii), whereas the species' range sizes of five macrofauna species remained relatively stable across space and time. The predicted probability of occurrence (PO) of two macrofauna species (Cerastoderma edule, Scoloplos armiger) decreased significantly under the potential future habitat conditions. In addition, a clear seagrass bed extension (Zostera noltii) on the lower intertidal flats (mixed sediments) and a decrease in the PO of mixed Mytilus edulis/Crassostrea gigas reefs was predicted for 2050. Until the mid-21st century, our future climatic and environmental scenario revealed significant changes in the range sizes (gains-losses) and/or the PO (increases-decreases) for seven of the 10 modelled species at the study site.
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