Experimental evidence of uncertain future of the keystone ragworm Hediste diversicolor (O.F. Müller, 1776) under climate change conditions

Highlights

  • Temperature enhances the impact of acidification on polychaetes survival and burrowing behavior.
  • Regardless the temperature, acidification results in a reduction on polychaetes feeding rate
  • Faster regeneration at the lowest temperature and less regenerated chaetigers at lower pH levels
  • Climate change induced oxidative stress in H. diversicolor
  • Polychaetes metabolic capacity was enhanced in stressed organisms, with no expenditure of energy reserves.

Abstract

It is currently assumed that climate change related factors pose severe challenges to biodiversity maintenance. This paper assesses the multi-stressor effects of elevated temperature (15 °C as control, 25 °C as elevated) and CO2 levels (pH 8.1 as control, 7.5 and 7.0 representing acidifying conditions) on the physiological (survival, and regenerative capacity), behavioral (feeding and burrowing activities), and biochemical changes (metabolic capacity, oxidative status and biotransformation mechanisms) experienced by the keystone polychaete Hediste diversicolor. Temperature rise enlarged the adverse effect of marine acidification on the survival of H. diversicolor, delayed the beginning of the excavation activity, enhancing the negative effects that pH decrease had in the burrowing behavior of this polychaete. Additionally, regardless of the temperature, exposure of H. diversicolor to acidification results in a reduction in the feeding rate. It is the first time that this decreased feeding capacity is found related to seawater acidification in this species. The healing of the wound and the blastemal formation were retarded due to these two climatic factors which hinder the regenerative process of polychaetes. These vital physiological functions of H. diversicolor can be related to the oxidative stress induced by climate change conditions since free radicals overproduced will impair cells functioning affecting species biochemical and physiological performance, including feeding, and tissue regeneration. The present results also demonstrated that although polychaete’s metabolic capacity was enhanced under stress conditions, organisms were still able to increase or maintain their energy reserves. Our findings are of major environmental relevance considering that predicted climate change conditions will affect species vital and ecological and physiological capacities. These can be translated into shrinking not only at the individual and population level but also in microbial and endofaunal diversities, in the detritus processing in estuaries and biogeochemical cycles at the ecosystem level. Thus the conservation of H. diversicolor populations is vital for the normal functioning of estuarine mudflat ecosystems.

Alam Bhuiyan K., Marín Rodríguez B., Pires A., Riba I., Dellvals A., Freitas R. & Conradi M., in press. Experimental evidence of uncertain future of the keystone ragworm Hediste diversicolor (O.F. Müller, 1776) under climate change conditions. Science of The Total Environment. Article (subscription required). 

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