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Biol Lett. 2012 October 23; 8(5): 821–824.
Published online 2012 July 4. doi:  10.1098/rsbl.2012.0474
PMCID: PMC3441004

North Sea ecosystem change from swimming crabs to seagulls


A recent increase in sea temperature has established a new ecosystem dynamic regime in the North Sea. Climate-induced changes in decapods have played an important role. Here, we reveal a coincident increase in the abundance of swimming crabs and lesser black-backed gull colonies in the North Sea, both in time and in space. Swimming crabs are an important food source for lesser black-backed gulls during the breeding season. Inhabiting the land, but feeding mainly at sea, lesser black-backed gulls provide a link between marine and terrestrial ecosystems, since the bottom-up influence of allochthonous nutrient input from seabirds to coastal soils can structure the terrestrial food web. We, therefore, suggest that climate-driven changes in trophic interactions in the marine food web may also have ensuing ramifications for the coastal ecology of the North Sea.

Keywords: climate change, food web, Larus fuscus graelsii, plankton, Polybius henslowii, sea temperature

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