Biogenic habitat shifts under long-term ocean acidification show nonlinear community responses and unbalanced functions of associated invertebrates

Renato Chemello, Marco Milazzo, Federico Quattrocchi, Badalamenti, Chemello, Mirto, Marco Milazzo, Gil, Michele Gristina, Chiara Alessi, Riccardo D'Agostaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Experiments have shown that increasing dissolved CO 2 concentrations (i.e. Ocean Acidification, OA) in marine ecosystems may act as nutrient for primary producers (e.g. fleshy algae) or a stressor for calcifying species (e.g., coralline algae, corals, molluscs). For the first time, rapid habitat dominance shifts and altered competitive replacement from a reef-forming to a non-reef-forming biogenic habitat were documented over one-year exposure to low pH/high CO 2 through a transplant experiment off Vulcano Island CO 2 seeps (NE Sicily, Italy). Ocean acidification decreased vermetid reefs complexity via a reduction in the reef-building species density, boosted canopy macroalgae and led to changes in composition, structure and functional diversity of the associated benthic assemblages. OA effects on invertebrate richness and abundance were nonlinear, being maximal at intermediate complexity levels of vermetid reefs and canopy forming algae. Abundance of higher order consumers (e.g. carnivores, suspension feeders) decreased under elevated CO 2 levels. Herbivores were non-linearly related to OA conditions, with increasing competitive release only of minor intertidal grazers (e.g. amphipods) under elevated CO 2 levels. Our results support the dual role of CO 2 (as a stressor and as a resource) in disrupting the state of rocky shore communities, and raise specific concerns about the future of intertidal reef ecosystem under increasing CO 2 emissions. We contribute to inform predictions of the complex and nonlinear community effects of OA on biogenic habitats, but at the same time encourage the use of multiple natural CO 2 gradients in providing quantitative data on changing community responses to long-term CO 2 exposure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-48
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume667
Publication statusPublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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