Species interactions can shift the response of a maerl bed community to ocean acidification and warming

Predicted ocean acidification and warming are likely to have major implications for marine organisms, especially marine calcifiers. However, little information is available on the response of marine communities as a whole to predicted changes. Here, we experimentally examined the combined effects of temperature and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) increases on the response of maerl bed assemblages, composed of living and dead thalli of the free-living coralline alga Lithothamnion corallioides, epiphytic fleshy algae, and grazer species. Two three-month experiments were performed in the winter and summer seasons in mesocosms with four different combinations of pCO2 (ambient and high pCO2) and temperature (ambient and +3 °C). The response of maerl assemblages was assessed using metabolic measurements at the species and assemblage scales. Gross primary production and respiration of assemblages were enhanced by high pCO2 conditions in the summer. This positive effect was attributed to the increase in epiphyte biomass, which benefited from higher CO2 concentrations for growth and primary production. Conversely, high pCO2 drastically decreased the calcification rates in assemblages. This response can be attributed to the decline in calcification rates of living L. corallioides due to acidification as well as increased dissolution of dead L. corallioides. Future changes in pCO2 and temperature are likely to promote the development of non-calcifying algae to the detriment of the engineer species L. corallioides. The development of fleshy algae may be modulated by the ability of grazers to regulate epiphyte growth. However, our results suggest that predicted changes will negatively affect the metabolism of grazers and potentially their ability to control epiphyte abundance. Here, we demonstrate that the response of marine communities to climate change will depend on the direct effects on species physiology and the indirect effects due to shifts in species interactions. This double, interdependent response underlines the importance of examining community-level processes, which integrate species interactions, to better understand the impact of global change on marine ecosystems.

Legrand E., Riera P., Lutier M., Coudre, J., Grall J. & Martin S., 2017. Species interactions can shift the response of a maerl bed community to ocean acidification and warming. Biogeosciences Discussions 1-36. Article.


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