Seaweed community response to a massive CO2 input

Changes in the structure of seaweed communities were examined following a massive CO2 input caused by a submarine eruption near the coast of El Hierro island (Canary Islands, Spain). The event lasted almost five months (October 2011–March 2012) and created a significant pH gradient. Specifically, we compared three different zones: highly affected with extreme low pH (6.7–7.3), affected with low pH (7.6–7.8), and unaffected ambient pH zone (∼8.1) according to the pH gradient generated by the predominate currents and waves in the south of the island. Studies were carried out before, during and after the CO2 input event in each zone. We found community-wide effects on seaweed communities during the eruption; these included changes in species abundance and changes in the diversity. However, changes in all these community traits were only evident in the highly affected zone, where there were major shifts in the seaweed community, with a replacement of Lobophora variegata by ephemeral seaweeds. Lobophora variegata dropped in cover from 87–94 to 27% while ephemeral seaweeds increased 6–10 to 29%. When the impact ended Lobophora variegata began to recover reaching a cover higher than 60%. In the moderate affected area the Lobophora variegata canopies maintained their integrity avoiding phase shifts to turfs. Here the only significant changes were the reduction of the cover of the crustose and geniculate coralline algae.

Sangil C., Clemente S., Brito A., Rodríguez A., Balsalobre M., Mendoza J. C., Martínez D. & Hernández J. C., 2016. Seaweed community response to a massive CO2 input. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 178:48–57. Article (subscription required).

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