Wave action modifies the effects of consumer diversity and warming on algal assemblages

Robert James Mrowicki, Nessa Elizabeth O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)
371 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

To understand the consequences of biodiversity loss, it is necessary to test how biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships may vary with predicted environmental change. In particular, our understanding will be advanced by studies addressing the interactive effects of multiple stressors on the role of biodiversity across trophic levels. Predicted increases in wave disturbance and ocean warming, together with climate-driven range shifts of key consumer species, are likely to have profound impacts on the dynamics of coastal marine communities. We tested whether wave action and temperature modified the effects of gastropod grazer diversity (Patella vulgata, Littorina littorea and Gibbula umbilicalis) on algal assemblages in experimental rock pools. The presence or absence of L. littorea appeared to drive changes in microalgal and macroalgal biomass and macroalgal assemblage structure. Macroalgal biomass also decreased with increasing grazer species richness, but only when wave action was enhanced. Further, independently of grazer diversity, wave action and temperature had interactive effects on macroalgal assemblage structure. Warming also led to a reversal of grazer-macroalgal interaction strengths from negative to positive, but only when there was no wave action. Our results show that hydrodynamic disturbance can exacerbate the effects of changing consumer diversity, and may also disrupt the influence of other environmental stressors on key consumer-resource interactions. These findings suggest that the combined effects of anticipated abiotic and biotic change on the functioning of coastal marine ecosystems, although difficult to predict, may be substantial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1020-2029
Number of pages10
JournalEcology
Volume96
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015

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