Ocean acidification reverses competition for space as habitats degrade

How marine communities are affected by CO2-induced climate change depends on the ability of species to tolerate or adapt to the new conditions, and how the altered characteristics of species influence the outcomes of key processes, such as competition and predation. Our study examines how near future CO2 levels may affect the interactions between two damselfish species known to compete for space, and the effects of declining habitat quality on these interactions. The two focal species differed in their tolerance to elevated CO2, with the species that is competitively dominant under present day conditions being most affected. Field experiments showed that elevated CO2 (945 μatm) reversed the competitive outcome between the two species with mortal consequences, and this reversal was accentuated in degraded habitats. Understanding these complex interactions will be crucial to predicting the likely composition of future communities under ocean acidification and climate change.

McCormick M. I., Watson S.-A. & Munday P. L., in press. Ocean acidification reverses competition for space as habitats degrade. Scientific Reports. Article.

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