Impact of climate change on direct and indirect species interactions

Recent marine climate change research has largely focused on the response of individual species to environmental changes including warming and acidification. The response of communities, driven by the direct effects of ocean change on individual species as well the cascade of indirect effects, has received far less study. We used several rocky intertidal species including crabs, whelks, juvenile abalone, and mussels to determine how feeding, growth, and interactions between species could be shifted by changing ocean conditions. Our 10 wk experiment revealed many complex outcomes which highlight the unpredictability of community-level responses. Contrary to our predictions, the largest impact of elevated CO2 was reduced crab feeding and survival, with a pH drop of 0.3 units. Surprisingly, whelks showed no response to higher temperatures or CO2 levels, while abalone shells grew 40% less under high CO2 conditions. Massive non-consumptive effects of crabs on whelks showed how important indirect effects can be in determining climate change responses. Predictions of species outcomes that account solely for physiological responses to climate change do not consider the potentially large role of indirect effects due to species interactions. For strongly linked species (e.g. predator-prey or competitor relationships), the indirect effects of climate change are much less known than direct effects, but may be far more powerful in reshaping future marine communities.

Lord J. P., Barry J. P. & Graves D., 2017. Impact of climate change on direct and indirect species interactions. Marine Ecology Progress Series 571:1-11. Article.


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