Biological Impacts of Marine Heatwaves

Climatic extremes are becoming increasingly common against a background trend of global warming. In the oceans, marine heatwaves (MHWs)—discrete periods of anomalously warm water—have intensified and become more frequent over the past century, impacting the integrity of marine ecosystems globally. We review and synthesize current understanding of MHW impacts at the individual, population, and community levels. We then examine how these impacts affect broader ecosystem services and discuss the current state of research on biological impacts of MHWs. Finally, we explore current and emergent approaches to predicting the occurrence and impacts of future events, along with adaptation and management approaches. With further increases in intensity and frequency projected for coming decades, MHWs are emerging as pervasive stressors to marine ecosystems globally. A deeper mechanistic understanding of their biological impacts is needed to better predict and adapt to increased MHW activity in the Anthropocene.


Smith KE, Burrows MT, Hobday AJ, King NG, Moore PJ, Sen Gupta A, Thomsen MS, Wernberg T & Smale DA

Annual Review of Marine Science, 15(1)
08, 17, 2022