Oecologia

, Volume 180, Issue 3, pp 889–901

Temperature effects on seaweed-sustaining top-down control vary with season

  • Franziska J. Werner
  • Angelika Graiff
  • Birte Matthiessen
Global change ecology - Original research

Abstract

Rising seawater temperature and CO2 concentrations (ocean acidification) represent two of the most influential factors impacting marine ecosystems in the face of global climate change. In ecological climate change research, full-factorial experiments performed across seasons in multispecies, cross-trophic-level settings are essential as they permit a more realistic estimation of direct and indirect effects as well as the relative importance of the effects of both major environmental stressors on ecosystems. In benthic mesocosm experiments, we tested the responses of coastal Baltic Sea Fucus vesiculosus communities to elevated seawater temperature and CO2 concentrations across four seasons of one year. While increasing [CO2] levels had only minor effects, warming had strong and persistent effects on grazers, and the resulting effects on the Fucus community were found to be season dependent. In late summer, a temperature-driven collapse of grazers caused a cascading effect from the consumers to the foundation species, resulting in overgrowth of Fucus thalli by epiphytes. In fall/winter (outside the growing season of epiphytes), intensified grazing under warming resulted in a significant reduction in Fucus biomass. Thus, we were able to confirm the prediction that future increases in water temperatures will influence marine food-web processes by altering top-down control, but we were also able to show that specific consequences for food-web structure depend on the season. Since F. vesiculosus is the dominant habitat-forming brown algal system in the Baltic Sea, its potential decline under global warming implies a loss of key functions and services such as provision of nutrient storage, substrate, food, shelter, and nursery grounds for a diverse community of marine invertebrates and fish in Baltic Sea coastal waters.

Keywords

Climate change Indirect effects Fucus vesiculosus Epiphytes Mesograzers 

Supplementary material

442_2015_3489_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (68 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 68 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Franziska J. Werner
    • 1
  • Angelika Graiff
    • 2
  • Birte Matthiessen
    • 1
  1. 1.Experimental Ecology and Food WebsGEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biosciences, Applied Ecology and PhycologyUniversität RostockRostockGermany

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