Climate Change and Latitudinal Patterns of Intertidal Thermal Stress

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Science  01 Nov 2002:
Vol. 298, Issue 5595, pp. 1015-1017
DOI: 10.1126/science.1076814

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The interaction of climate and the timing of low tides along the West Coast of the United States creates a complex mosaic of thermal environments, in which northern sites can be more thermally stressful than southern sites. Thus, climate change may not lead to a poleward shift in the distribution of intertidal organisms, as has been proposed, but instead will likely cause localized extinctions at a series of “hot spots.” Patterns of exposure to extreme climatic conditions are temporally variable, and tidal predictions suggest that in the next 3 to 5 years “hot spots” are likely to appear at several northern sites.

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