Marine heat waves differentially affect functioning of native (Ostrea edulis) and invasive (Crassostrea [Magallana] gigas) oysters in tidal pools

Abby R. Gilson*, Neil E. Coughlan, Jaimie T.A. Dick, Louise Kregting

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The frequency and duration of short-term extreme climatic events, such as marine heat waves (MHWs), are increasing worldwide. The rapid onset of MHWs can lead to short-term stress responses in organisms that may have lethal or sub-lethal effects. In addition, increased temperature variability and extremes are predicted to favour and facilitate the spread of non-native species, altering rates of key ecosystem processes and functions. It is possible, however, that compensatory mechanisms, such as increased feeding rates, may enable the maintenance of metabolic functioning and prevent detrimental temperature effects. Using a mesocosm-based approach, we experimentally tested for the effects of MHWs in tidal pools on the mortality, individual length, width and biomass, and respiration rates for both a native oyster, Ostrea edulis, and invasive oyster, Magallana gigas, with or without food supply. No mortality was recorded for either O. edulis or M. gigas for the duration of the four week experiment. Increases in length were greater in O. edulis compared to M. gigas but were not affected by temperature or food supply. Increases in width, however, did not differ between species but were reduced overall in heat wave treatments regardless of food supply. O. edulis gained more biomass than M. gigas in ambient treatments regardless of food supply but, in heat wave treatments, only gained greater biomass than M. gigas at additional levels of food supply. Respiration rates did not reflect changes in temperature or food supply in either species but differed through time, with greater rates post-heat wave in all treatments. Thermal responses of O. edulis and M. gigas to MHWs thus appear to be context dependent and, if food supply is sufficient, O. edulis may be able to maintain its presence in the intertidal. The ability of M. gigas to remain unaffected by fluctuating environmental conditions, however, suggests future resilience of invasive populations to climatic extremes that may result in competitive exclusion and a further decline in native oyster populations. This information is critical for developing effective management plans to ensure the sustainability of natural oyster populations whilst maintaining key ecosystem functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105497
JournalMarine environmental research
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 13 Oct 2021


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