Research ArticleECOLOGY

Functional diversity of marine megafauna in the Anthropocene

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Science Advances  17 Apr 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 16, eaay7650
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay7650

Abstract

Marine megafauna, the largest animals in the oceans, serve key roles in ecosystem functioning. Yet, one-third of these animals are at risk of extinction. To better understand the potential consequences of megafaunal loss, here we quantify their current functional diversity, predict future changes under different extinction scenarios, and introduce a new metric [functionally unique, specialized and endangered (FUSE)] that identifies threatened species of particular importance for functional diversity. Simulated extinction scenarios forecast marked declines in functional richness if current trajectories are maintained during the next century (11% globally; up to 24% regionally), with more marked reductions (48% globally; up to 70% at the poles) beyond random expectations if all threatened species eventually go extinct. Among the megafaunal groups, sharks will incur a disproportionate loss of functional richness. We identify top FUSE species and suggest a renewed focus on these species to preserve the ecosystem functions provided by marine megafauna.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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