Using stable isotope analysis to determine the effects of ocean acidification and warming on trophic interactions in a maerl bed community

Ocean acidification and warming are likely to affect the structure and functioning of marine benthic communities. This study experimentally examined the effects of ocean acidification and warming on trophic interactions within a maerl bed community by using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis. Two three‐month experiments were conducted in winter and summer seasons with four different combinations of pCO2 (ambient and elevated pCO2) and temperature (ambient and +3°C). Experimental assemblages were created in tanks held in the laboratory and were composed of calcareous (Lithothamnion corallioides) and fleshy algae (Rhodymenia ardissonei, Solieria chordalis, and Ulva sp.), gastropods (Gibbula magus and Jujubinus exasperatus), and sea urchins (Psammechinus miliaris). Our results showed higher seaweed availability for grazers in summer than winter. Therefore, grazers were able to adapt their diet seasonally. Increased pCO2 and temperature did not modify the trophic structure in winter, while shifts in the contribution of seaweed were found in summer. Combined acidification and warming increased the contribution of biofilm in gastropods diet in summer conditions. Psammechinus miliaris mostly consumed L. corallioides under ambient conditions, while the alga S. chordalis became the dominant food source under high pCO2 in summer. Predicted changes in pCO2 and temperature had complex effects on assemblage trophic structure. Direct effects of acidification and warming on seaweed metabolism may modify their abundance and biomass, affecting their availability for grazers. Climate change may also modify seaweeds’ nutritive value and their palatability for grazers. The grazers we investigated were able to change their diet in response to changes in algal assemblages, an advantage given that warming and acidification alter the composition of algal communities.

Legrand E., Martin S., Leroux C. & Riera P., 2020. Using stable isotope analysis to determine the effects of ocean acidification and warming on trophic interactions in a maerl bed community. Marine Ecology: e12612. doi: 10.1111/maec.12612 . Article.

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