, Volume 180, Issue 3, pp 889–901 | Cite as

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

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


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.


Climate change Indirect effects Fucus vesiculosus Epiphytes Mesograzers 



This research was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the framework of the project Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification (BIOACID II, project 11/2.3). B. Buchholz, C. Eich, T. Hanssen, C. Meyer, B. Gardeler, and P. Schulz are gratefully acknowledged for their technical and laboratory support. We are grateful for valuable comments by B. K. Eriksson which improved a former version of this manuscript, and we sincerely thank the anonymous reviewers for their critiques and suggestions.

Author contribution statement

BM, FJW, and AG designed the study. FJW and AG performed the experiments and analyzed the data. BM provided funding and intellectual input into the analysis. FJW wrote the manuscript, with BM providing substantial contributions.

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
    Email author
  • 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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