Relative sensitivity of soft-bottom intertidal macrofauna to increased CO2 and experimental stress
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We used a controlled CO2 perturbation experiment to test hypotheses about changes in diversity, composition and structure of soft-bottom intertidal macrobenthic assemblages, under realistic and locally relevant scenarios of seawater acidification. Patches of undisturbed sediment were collected from 2 types of intertidal sedimentary habitat in the Ria Formosa coastal lagoon (South Portugal) and exposed to 2 levels of seawater acidification (pH reduced by 0.3 and 0.6 units) and 1 unmanipulated (control) level. After 75 d the assemblages differed significantly between the 2 types of sediment and between field controls and the ex situ treatments, but not among the 3 pH levels tested. The naturally high values of total alkalinity buffered seawater from the changes imposed on carbonate chemistry and may have contributed to offsetting acidification at the local scale. Observed differences on biota were strongly related to the organic matter content and grain-size of the sediments, particularly to the fractions of medium and coarse sand. Soft-bottom intertidal macrofauna was significantly affected by the stress of being held in an artificial environment, but not by CO2-induced seawater acidification. Given the previously observed variations in the sensitivities of marine organisms to seawater acidification, direct extrapolations of the present findings to different regions or other types of assemblages do not seem advisable. However, the contribution of ex situ studies to the assessment of ecosystem-level responses to environmental disturbances could generally be improved by incorporating adequate field controls in the experimental design.
- Biological & Environmental Sciences [179 items ]