Warming may increase the vulnerability of calcareous algae to bioinvasions

Cebrian, Emma; Linares, Cristina; Garrabou, Joaquim. Marine Pollution Bulletin 173 : 113099 (2021) DIGITAL CSIC 

Understanding the interactions between various stressors, and the resulting cumulative impacts they exert, is essential in order to predict the potential resilience of marine habitats to climate change. Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are a major calcifying component of marine habitats, from tropical to polar oceans, and play a central role as ecosystem engineers in many rocky reefs. These species are increasingly threatened by the stress of climate change. However, the effects of other stressors linked to global change, such as invasive species, have scarcely been addressed. We have studied the interactive effects of invasive algae and global warming on CCA, combining observational and experimental approaches. CCA sensitivity to invasive algae is heightened when they are concurrently exposed to elevated seawater temperature, and the interaction between these two stressors triggers drastic synergistic effects on CCA. The reduction and eventual disappearance of these “ecosystem foundation species” may undermine ecological functioning, leading to the disappearance and/or fragmentation of the communities associated with them.