Examining the reproductive success of bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana, Phaeophyceae, Laminariales) in climate change conditions

Climate change is affecting marine ecosystems in many ways, including raising temperatures and leading to ocean acidification. From 2014 to 2016, an extensive marine heat wave extended along the west coast of North America and had devastating effects on numerous species, including bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana). Bull kelp is an important foundation species in coastal ecosystems and can be affected by marine heat waves and ocean acidification; however, the impacts have not been investigated on sensitive early life stages. To determine the effects of changing temperatures and carbonate levels on Northern California’s bull kelp populations, we collected sporophylls from mature bull kelp individuals in Point Arena, CA. At the Bodega Marine Laboratory, we released spores from field-collected bull kelp, and cultured microscopic gametophytes in a common garden experiment with a fully factorial design crossing modern conditions (11.63 ± 0.54°C and pH 7.93 ± 0.26) with observed extreme climate conditions (15.56 ± 0.83°C and 7.64 ± 0.32 pH). Our results indicated that both increased temperature and decreased pH influenced growth and egg production of bull kelp microscopic stages. Increased temperature resulted in decreased gametophyte survival and offspring production. In contrast, decreased pH had less of an effect but resulted in increased gametophyte survival and offspring production. Additionally, increased temperature significantly impacted reproductive timing by causing female gametophytes to produce offspring earlier than under ambient temperature conditions. Our findings can inform better predictions of the impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems and provide key insights into environmental dynamics regulating the bull kelp lifecycle.

Korabik A. R., Winquist T., Grosholz E. D. & Hollarsmith J. A., in press. Examining the reproductive success of bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana, Phaeophyceae, Laminariales) in climate change conditions. Journal of Phycology. Article (subscription required).

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: