Population trajectories for the Antarctic bivalve Laternula elliptica: identifying demographic bottlenecks in differing environmental futures

The world’s oceans are changing, and dramatic shifts have been documented in the Southern Ocean. The consequences of these shifts to coastal benthic organisms are difficult to predict at present, as ocean warming may increase primary production and food resources for benthic consumers, whilst OA may have negative impacts that differentially affect various species and life stages. A model was developed to investigate how different scenarios of change may influence population size of the Antarctic bivalve Laternula elliptica. The model describes potential implications of both pH and temperature change on survivorship and reproductive output of a population of this bivalve species in McMurdo Sound, Ross Sea. Implications of increases and decreases in mortality rate across different life stages of the population (early, mid and late) were assessed. Additionally, effects on energetic resource partitioning and dictating reproductive potential (RP) were also investigated. Significant declines in RP, due to increased basal metabolic demand, were associated with even relatively small changes in temperature and pH, resulting in populations declining to 25 % of the starting equilibrium density within 60 years. As L. elliptica is a pivotal species to the functionality of the Antarctic coastal benthic ecosystem, wide spread repercussions are expected if populations are impacted as the model predicts. Although further model development is required to explore the ecosystem implications of the population decline described in this paper, this work allows a better understanding of the consequences of change as soon as data on the direction and magnitude of the changes affecting Antarctic seas become available.

Guy C. I., Cummings V. J., Lohrer A. M., Gamito S. & Thrush S. F., in press. Population trajectories for the Antarctic bivalve Laternula elliptica: identifying demographic bottlenecks in differing environmental futures. Polar Biology. Article (subscription required).

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