Responses of benthic calcifying algae to ocean acidification differ between laboratory and field settings

Accurately predicting the effects of ocean and coastal acidification on marine ecosystems requires understanding how responses scale from laboratory experiments to the natural world. Using benthic calcifying macroalgae as a model system, we performed a semi-quantitative synthesis to compare directional responses between laboratory experiments and field studies. Variability in ecological, spatial, and temporal scales across studies, and the disparity in the number of responses documented in laboratory and field settings, make direct comparisons difficult. Despite these differences, some responses, including community-level measurements, were consistent across laboratory and field studies. However, there were also mismatches in the directionality of many responses with more negative acidification impacts reported in laboratory experiments. Recommendations to improve our ability to scale responses include: (i) developing novel approaches to allow measurements of the same responses in laboratory and field settings, and (ii) researching understudied calcifying benthic macroalgal species and responses. Incorporating these guidelines into research programs will yield data more suitable for robust meta-analyses and will facilitate the development of ecosystem models that incorporate proper scaling of organismal responses to in situ acidification. This, in turn, will allow for more accurate predictions of future changes in ecosystem health and function in a rapidly changing natural climate.

Page H. N., Bahr K. D., Cyronak T., Jewett E. B., Johnson M. D. & McCoy S. J., 2021. Responses of benthic calcifying algae to ocean acidification differ between laboratory and field settings. ICES Journal of Marine Science: fsab232. doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsab232. Article.


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