Gregory L. Britten and Elizabeth C. Silbert (2020), Enhanced fish production during a period of extreme global warmth, Nature Communications, doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19462-wDescription:
Marine ecosystem models predict a decline in fish production with anthropogenic ocean warming, but how fish production equilibrates to warming on longer timescales is unclear. We report a positive nonlinear correlation between ocean temperature and pelagic fish production during the extreme global warmth of the Early Paleogene Period (62-46 million years ago [Ma]). Using data-constrained modeling, we find that temperature-driven increases in trophic transfer efficiency (the fraction of production passed up trophic levels) and primary production can account for the observed increase in fish production, while changes in predator-prey interactions cannot. These data provide new insight into upper-trophic-level processes constrained from the geological record, suggesting that long-term warming may support more productive food webs in subtropical pelagic ecosystems.