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  1. Abstract

    Currents are unique drivers of oceanic phylogeography and thus determine the distribution of marine coastal species, along with past glaciations and sea-level changes. Here we reconstruct the worldwide colonization history of eelgrass (Zostera marinaL.), the most widely distributed marine flowering plant or seagrass from its origin in the Northwest Pacific, based on nuclear and chloroplast genomes. We identified two divergent Pacific clades with evidence for admixture along the East Pacific coast. Two west-to-east (trans-Pacific) colonization events support the key role of the North Pacific Current. Time-calibrated nuclear and chloroplast phylogenies yielded concordant estimates of the arrival ofZ. marinain the Atlantic through the Canadian Arctic, suggesting that eelgrass-based ecosystems, hotspots of biodiversity and carbon sequestration, have only been present there for ~243 ky (thousand years). Mediterranean populations were founded ~44 kya, while extant distributions along western and eastern Atlantic shores were founded at the end of the Last Glacial Maximum (~19 kya), with at least one major refuge being the North Carolina region. The recent colonization and five- to sevenfold lower genomic diversity of the Atlantic compared to the Pacific populations raises concern and opportunity about how Atlantic eelgrass might respond to rapidly warming coastal oceans.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2024
  2. Distribution of Earth’s biomes is structured by the match between climate and plant traits, which in turn shape associated communities and ecosystem processes and services. However, that climate–trait match can be disrupted by historical events, with lasting ecosystem impacts. As Earth’s environment changes faster than at any time in human history, critical questions are whether and how organismal traits and ecosystems can adjust to altered conditions. We quantified the relative importance of current environmental forcing versus evolutionary history in shaping the growth form (stature and biomass) and associated community of eelgrass ( Zostera marina ), a widespread foundation plant of marine ecosystems along Northern Hemisphere coastlines, which experienced major shifts in distribution and genetic composition during the Pleistocene. We found that eelgrass stature and biomass retain a legacy of the Pleistocene colonization of the Atlantic from the ancestral Pacific range and of more recent within-basin bottlenecks and genetic differentiation. This evolutionary legacy in turn influences the biomass of associated algae and invertebrates that fuel coastal food webs, with effects comparable to or stronger than effects of current environmental forcing. Such historical lags in phenotypic acclimatization may constrain ecosystem adjustments to rapid anthropogenic climate change, thus altering predictions about the future functioning of ecosystems. 
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  3. While considerable evidence exists of biogeographic patterns in the intensity of species interactions, the influence of these patterns on variation in community structure is less clear. Studying how the distributions of traits in communities vary along global gradients can inform how variation in interactions and other factors contribute to the process of community assembly. Using a model selection approach on measures of trait dispersion in crustaceans associated with eelgrass ( Zostera marina ) spanning 30° of latitude in two oceans, we found that dispersion strongly increased with increasing predation and decreasing latitude. Ocean and epiphyte load appeared as secondary predictors; Pacific communities were more overdispersed while Atlantic communities were more clustered, and increasing epiphytes were associated with increased clustering. By examining how species interactions and environmental filters influence community structure across biogeographic regions, we demonstrate how both latitudinal variation in species interactions and historical contingency shape these responses. Community trait distributions have implications for ecosystem stability and functioning, and integrating large-scale observations of environmental filters, species interactions and traits can help us predict how communities may respond to environmental change. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    The global distribution of primary production and consumption by humans (fisheries) is well-documented, but we have no map linking the central ecological process of consumption within food webs to temperature and other ecological drivers. Using standardized assays that span 105° of latitude on four continents, we show that rates of bait consumption by generalist predators in shallow marine ecosystems are tightly linked to both temperature and the composition of consumer assemblages. Unexpectedly, rates of consumption peaked at midlatitudes (25 to 35°) in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres across both seagrass and unvegetated sediment habitats. This pattern contrasts with terrestrial systems, where biotic interactions reportedly weaken away from the equator, but it parallels an emerging pattern of a subtropical peak in marine biodiversity. The higher consumption at midlatitudes was closely related to the type of consumers present, which explained rates of consumption better than consumer density, biomass, species diversity, or habitat. Indeed, the apparent effect of temperature on consumption was mostly driven by temperature-associated turnover in consumer community composition. Our findings reinforce the key influence of climate warming on altered species composition and highlight its implications for the functioning of Earth’s ecosystems. 
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