Genotypic variation influences tolerance to warming and acidification of early life-stage Fucus vesiculosus L. (Phaeophyceae) in a seasonally fluctuating environment

Global change exposes brown algal Fucus vesiculosus populations to increasing temperature and pCO2, which may threaten individuals, in particular the early life-stages. Genetic diversity of F. vesiculosus populations is low in the Baltic compared to Atlantic populations. This might jeopardise their potential for adaptation to environmental changes. Here, we report on the responses of early life-stage F. vesiculosus to warming and acidification in a near-natural scenario maintaining natural and seasonal variation (spring 2013–2014) of the Kiel Fjord in the Baltic Sea, Germany (54°27ʹN, 10°11ʹW). We assessed how stress sensitivity differed among sibling groups and how genetic diversity of germling populations affected their stress tolerance. Warming increased growth rates of Fucus germlings in spring and in early summer, but led to higher photoinhibition in spring and decreased their survival in late summer. Acidification increased germlings’ growth in summer but otherwise showed much weaker effects than warming. During the colder seasons (autumn and winter), growth was slow while survival was high compared to spring and summer, all at ambient temperatures. A pronounced variation in stress response among genetically different sibling groups (full-sib families) suggests a genotypic basis for this variation and thus a potential for adaptation for F. vesiculosus populations to future conditions. Corroborating this, survival in response to warming in populations with higher diversity was better than the mean survival of single sibling groups. We conclude that impacts on early life-stages depend on the combination of stressors and season and that genetic variation is crucial for the tolerance to global change stress.

Al-Janabi B., Kruse I., Graiff A., Karsten U. & Wahl M., in press. Genotypic variation influences tolerance to warming and acidification of early life-stage Fucus vesiculosus L. (Phaeophyceae) in a seasonally fluctuating environment. Marine Biology. Article (subscription required).


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