Impacts of temperature on primary productivity and respiration in naturally structured macroalgal assemblages.

PLoS ONE. 2013;8(9):e74413 DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0074413


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Journal Title: PLoS ONE

ISSN: 1932-6203 (Online)

Publisher: Public Library of Science (PLoS)

LCC Subject Category: Medicine | Science

Country of publisher: United States

Language of fulltext: English

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Leigh W Tait
David R Schiel


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Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

Rising global temperatures caused by human-mediated change has already triggered significant responses in organismal physiology, distribution and ecosystem functioning. Although the effects of rising temperature on the physiology of individual organisms are well understood, the effect on community-wide processes has remained elusive. The fixation of carbon via primary productivity is an essential ecosystem function and any shifts in the balance of primary productivity and respiration could alter the carbon balance of ecosystems. Here we show through a series of tests that respiration of naturally structured algal assemblages in southern New Zealand greatly increases with rising temperature, with implications for net primary productivity (NPP). The NPP of in situ macroalgal assemblages was minimally affected by natural temperature variation, possibly through photo-acclimation or temperature acclimation responses, but respiration rates and compensating irradiance were negatively affected. However, laboratory experiments testing the impacts of rising temperature on several photosynthetic parameters showed a decline in NPP, increasing respiration rates and increasing compensating irradiance. The respiration Q10 of laboratory assemblages (the difference in metabolic rates over 10°C) averaged 2.9 compared to a Q10 of 2 often seen in other autotrophs. However, gross primary productivity (GPP) Q10 averaged 2, indicating that respiration was more severely affected by rising temperature. Furthermore, combined high irradiance and high temperature caused photoinhibition in the laboratory, and resulted in 50% lower NPP at high irradiance. Our study shows that communities may be more severely affected by rising global temperatures than would be expected by responses of individual species. In particular, enhanced respiration rates and rising compensation points have the potential to greatly affect the carbon balance of macroalgal assemblages through declines in sub-canopy NPP, the impacts of which may be exacerbated over longer time-scales and could result in declines in sub-canopy species richness and abundance.