Ocean warming and acidification adjust inter- and intra-specific variability in the functional trait expression of polar invertebrates

Climate change is known to affect the distribution and composition of species, but concomitant alterations to functionally important aspects of behaviour and species-environment relations are poorly constrained. Here, we examine the ecosystem ramifications of changes in sediment-dwelling invertebrate bioturbation behaviour—a key process mediating nutrient cycling—associated with near-future environmental conditions (+ 1.5 °C, 550 ppm [pCO2]) for species from polar regions experiencing rapid rates of climate change. We find that responses to warming and acidification vary between species and lead to a reduction in intra-specific variability in behavioural trait expression that adjusts the magnitude and direction of nutrient concentrations. Our analyses also indicate that species behaviour is not predetermined, but can be dependent on local variations in environmental history that set population capacities for phenotypic plasticity. We provide evidence that certain, but subtle, aspects of inter- and intra-specific variation in behavioural trait expression, rather than the presence or proportional representation of species per se, is an important and under-appreciated determinant of benthic biogeochemical responses to climate change. Such changes in species behaviour may act as an early warning for impending ecological transitions associated with progressive climate forcing.


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Authors: Williams, Thomas J., Reed, Adam J., Peck, Lloyd S. ORCIDORCID record for Lloyd S. Peck, Godbold, Jasmin A., Solan, Martin

On this site: Lloyd Peck
1 July, 2024
Scientific Reports / 14
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