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Abstract

To better understand life in the sea, marine scientists must first quantify how individual organisms experience their environment, and then describe how organismal performance depends on that experience. In this review, we first explore marine environmental variation from the perspective of pelagic organisms, the most abundant life forms in the ocean. Generation time, the ability to move relative to the surrounding water (even slowly), and the presence of environmental gradients at all spatial scales play dominant roles in determining the variation experienced by individuals, but this variation remains difficult to quantify. We then use this insight to critically examine current understanding of the environmental physiology of pelagic marine organisms. Physiologists have begun to grapple with the complexity presented by environmental variation, and promising frameworks exist for predicting and/or interpreting the consequences for physiological performance. However, new technology needs to be developed and much difficult empirical work remains, especially in quantifying response times to environmental variation and the interactions among multiple covarying factors. We call on the field of global-change biology to undertake these important challenges.

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2022-01-03
2024-06-16
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