Uneven global distribution of food web studies under climate change

Erin K. Cameron*, Maja K. Sundqvist, Sally A. Keith, Paul J. CaraDonna, Erik A. Mousing, Karin A. Nilsson, Daniel B. Metcalfe, Aimée T. Classen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Trophic interactions within food webs affect species distributions, coexistence, and provision of ecosystem services but can be strongly impacted by climatic changes. Understanding these impacts is therefore essential for managing ecosystems and sustaining human well-being. Here, we conducted a global synthesis of terrestrial, marine, and freshwater studies to identify key gaps in our knowledge of climate change impacts on food webs and determine whether the areas currently studied are those most likely to be impacted by climate change. We found research suffers from a strong geographic bias, with only 3.5% of studies occurring in the tropics. Importantly, the distribution of sites sampled under projected climate changes was biased—areas with decreases or large increases in precipitation and areas with low magnitudes of temperature change were under-represented. Our results suggest that understanding of climate change impacts on food webs could be broadened by considering more than two trophic levels, responses in addition to species abundance and biomass, impacts of a wider suite of climatic variables, and tropical ecosystems. Most importantly, to enable better forecasts of biodiversity responses to climate change, we identify critically under-represented geographic regions and climatic conditions which should be prioritized in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere02645
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • aquatic
  • climate change
  • data gaps
  • extreme events
  • food webs
  • freshwater
  • global
  • marine
  • precipitation
  • species interactions
  • terrestrial
  • warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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