Disentangling the impacts of heat wave magnitude, duration and timing on the structure and diversity of sessile marine assemblages

Smale, DA; Yunnie, ALE; Vance, T; Widdicombe, S. 2015 Disentangling the impacts of heat wave magnitude, duration and timing on the structure and diversity of sessile marine assemblages. PeerJ, 3, e863. 10.7717/peerj.863

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Abstract/Summary

Extreme climatic events, including heat waves (HWs) and severe storms, influence the structure of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Despite growing consensus that anthropogenic climate change will increase the frequency, duration and magnitude of extreme events, current understanding of their impact on communities and ecosystems is limited. Here, we used sessile invertebrates on settlement panels as model assemblages to examine the influence of HW magnitude, duration and timing on marine biodiversity patterns. Settlement panels were deployed in a marina in southwest UK for ≥5 weeks, to allow sufficient time for colonisation and development of sessile fauna, before being subjected to simulated HWs in a mesocosm facility. Replicate panel assemblages were held at ambient sea temperature (∼17 °C), or +3 °C or +5 °C for a period of 1 or 2 weeks, before being returned to the marina for a recovery phase of 2–3 weeks. The 10-week experiment was repeated 3 times, staggered throughout summer, to examine the influence of HW timing on community impacts. Contrary to our expectations, the warming events had no clear, consistent impacts on the abundance of species or the structure of sessile assemblages. With the exception of 1 high-magnitude long-duration HW event, warming did not alter not assemblage structure, favour non-native species, nor lead to changes in richness, abundance or biomass of sessile faunal assemblages. The observed lack of effect may have been caused by a combination of (1) the use of relatively low magnitude, realistic heat wave treatments compared to previous studies (2), the greater resilience of mature adult sessile fauna compared to recruits and juveniles, and (3) the high thermal tolerance of the model organisms (i.e., temperate fouling species, principally bryozoans and ascidians). Our study demonstrates the importance of using realistic treatments when manipulating climate change variables, and also suggests that biogeographical context may influence community-level responses to short-term warming events, which are predicted to increase in severity in the future.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Divisions: Marine Biological Association of the UK > Ecosystems and Environmental Change > Global environmental change and marine ecosystems
Depositing User: Dr Dan Smale
Date made live: 10 Sep 2015 09:31
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2018 09:35
URI: http://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/6530

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