Generality in multispecies responses to ocean acidification revealed through multiple hypothesis testing

Decades of research have demonstrated that many calcifying species are negatively affected by ocean acidification, a major anthropogenic threat in marine ecosystems. However, even closely related species may exhibit different responses to ocean acidification and less is known about the drivers that shape such variation in different species. Here, we examine the drivers of physiological performance under ocean acidification in a group of five species of turf‐forming coralline algae. Specifically, quantitating the relative weight of evidence for each of ten hypotheses, we show that variation in coralline calcification and photosynthesis was best explained by allometric traits. Across ocean acidification conditions, larger individuals (measured as noncalcified mass) had higher net calcification and photosynthesis rates. Importantly, our approach was able to not only identify the aspect of size that drove the performance of coralline algae, but also determined that responses to ocean acidification were not dependent on species identity, evolutionary relatedness, habitat, shape, or structural composition. In fact, we found that failure to test multiple, alternative hypotheses would underestimate the generality of physiological performances, leading to the conclusion that each species had different baseline performance under ocean acidification. Testing among alternative hypotheses is an essential step toward determining the generalizability of experiments across taxa and identifying common drivers of species responses to global change.

Barner A. K., Chan F., Hettinger A., Hacker S. D., Marshall K. & Menge B. A., in press. Generality in multispecies responses to ocean acidification revealed through multiple hypothesis testing. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).

 

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