Ecological drivers of seaweed canopy resilience along a latitudinal climate gradient

Scott Bennett

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    292 Downloads (Pure)


    [Truncated} As earth’s climate warms, isotherms are migrating poleward throughout much of the ocean. The capacity of ecological communities to absorb these changes while essentially retaining the same structure, function and feedbacks (ecological resilience), will be influenced by how the changing physical environment interacts with the ecological processes and physiological tolerances of existing communities. My thesis explores three broad questions relating to how seaweed canopy communities are likely to respond to warming: 1) How do patterns in seaweed canopy structure change along spatial gradients in response to temperature? 2) Can species adapt or physiologically acclimate to warming? 3) How does the nature of species interactions (plant-plant and plant-herbivore) influence the structure, function and feedbacks within seaweed canopy dominated communities?
    The coastal waters of south-western Australia have continuous temperate rocky reef habitat and a highly structured temperature gradient of 2 – 3°C along 1000 km of north south trending coastline. This temperature gradient reflects the levels of warming projected for southern Australia over the coming century, thereby providing a natural experimental setting to test potential impacts of warming on seaweed canopies. Additionally, a severe marine heatwave impacted this coastline in 2011 resulting in thermal anomalies 2 – 3°C above long terms summer maxima for approximately two weeks. The heatwave provided a unique opportunity to specifically examine how temperature changes can impact natural marine communities across broad spatial scales.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    • Wernberg, Thomas, Supervisor
    • Kendrick, Gary, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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