Facilitation of animals is stronger during summer marine heatwaves and around morphologically complex foundation species

Shinae Montie, Mads Thomsen

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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Foundation species create biogenic habitats, modify environmental conditions, augment biodiversity, and control animal community structures. In recent decades, marine heatwaves (MHWs) have affected the ecology of foundation species worldwide, and perhaps also their associated animal communities. However, no realistic field experiment has tested how MHWs affect animals that live in and around these foundation species. We therefore tested, in a four-factorial field experiment, if colonisation by small mobile marine animals (epifauna) onto plates with attached single versus co-occurring foundation species of different morphological complexities, were affected by 3–5°C heating (that mirrored a recent extreme MHW in the study area) and if the heating effect on the epifauna varied within and between seasons. For this experiment mimics of turf seaweed represented the single foundation species and holdfasts of seven common canopy-forming seaweed represented the co-occurring foundation species with different morphological complexities. We found that the taxonomic richness and total abundance of epifauna, dominated by copepods, generally were higher on heated plates with complex seaweed holdfasts in warmer summer trials. Furthermore, several interactions between test-factors were significant, e.g., epifaunal abundances, were, across taxonomic groups, generally higher in warmer than colder summer trials. These results suggest that, in temperate ecosystems, small, mobile, short-lived, and fast-growing marine epifauna can be facilitated by warmer oceans and morphologically complex foundation species, implying that future MHWs may increase secondary production and trophic transfers between primary producers and fish. Future studies should test whether these results can be scaled to other ecological species-interactions, across latitudes and biogeographical regions, and if similar results are found after longer MHWs or within live foundation species under real MHW conditions. © 2023 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10512
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
Externally publishedYes


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