Long-term effects of warming and ocean acidification are modified by seasonal variation in species responses and environmental conditions

Warming of sea surface temperatures and alteration of ocean chemistry associated with anthropogenic increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide will have profound consequences for a broad range of species, but the potential for seasonal variation to modify species and ecosystem responses to these stressors has received little attention. Here, using the longest experiment to date (542 days), we investigate how the interactive effects of warming and ocean acidification affect the growth, behaviour and associated levels of ecosystem functioning (nutrient release) for a functionally important non-calcifying intertidal polychaete (Alitta virens) under seasonally changing conditions. We find that the effects of warming, ocean acidification and their interactions are not detectable in the short term, but manifest over time through changes in growth, bioturbation and bioirrigation behaviour that, in turn, affect nutrient generation. These changes are intimately linked to species responses to seasonal variations in environmental conditions (temperature and photoperiod) that, depending upon timing, can either exacerbate or buffer the long-term directional effects of climatic forcing. Taken together, our observations caution against over emphasizing the conclusions from short-term experiments and highlight the necessity to consider the temporal expression of complex system dynamics established over appropriate timescales when forecasting the likely ecological consequences of climatic forcing.

Godbold J. A. & Solan M., 2013. Long-term effects of warming and ocean acidification are modified by seasonal variation in species responses and environmental conditions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 368(1627): 20130186. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0186. Article (subscription required).


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