by Brose, U., Dunne, J.A., Montoya, J.M., Petchey, O.L., Schneider, F.D., Jacob, U.
Published: 24 September 2012
One important aspect of climate change is the increase in average temperature, which will not only have direct physiological effects on all species but also indirectly modifies abundances, interaction strengths, food-web topologies, community stability and functioning. In this theme issue, we highlight a novel pathway through which warming indirectly affects ecological communities: by changing their size structure (i.e. the body-size distributions). Warming can shift these distributions towards dominance of small- over large-bodied species. The conceptual, theoretical and empirical research described in this issue, in sum, suggests that effects of temperature may be dominated by changes in size structure, with relatively weak direct effects. For example, temperature effects via size structure have implications for top-down and bottom-up control in ecosystems and may ultimately yield novel communities. Moreover, scaling up effects of temperature and body size from physiology to the levels of populations, communities and ecosystems may provide a crucially important mechanistic approach for forecasting future consequences of global warming.