Response diversity in Mediterranean coralligenous assemblages facing climate change: Insights from a multispecific thermotolerance experiment

Gómez-Gras, D.Linares, CristinaDe Caralt, S. Cebrian, Emma Frleta‐Valić, MašaMontero-Serra, IgnasiPagès-Escolà, MartaLópez-Sendino, P.Garrabou, Joaquim. Ecology and Evolution 9 : 4168-4190 (2019)  DIGITAL CSIC

Climate change threatens coastal benthic communities on a global scale. However, the potential effects of ongoing warming on mesophotic temperate reefs at the community level remain poorly understood. Investigating how different members of these communities will respond to the future expected environmental conditions is, therefore, key to anticipating their future trajectories and developing specific management and conservation strategies. Here, we examined the responses of some of the main components of the highly diverse Mediterranean coralligenous assemblages to thermal stress. We performed thermotolerance experiments with different temperature treatments (from 26 to 29°C) with 10 species from different phyla (three anthozoans, six sponges and one ascidian) and different structural roles. Overall, we observed species‐specific contrasting responses to warming regardless of phyla or growth form. Moreover, the responses ranged from highly resistant species to sensitive species and were mostly in agreement with previous field observations from mass mortality events (MMEs) linked to Mediterranean marine heat waves. Our results unravel the diversity of responses to warming in coralligenous outcrops and suggest the presence of potential winners and losers in the face of climate change. Finally, this study highlights the importance of accounting for species‐specific vulnerabilities and response diversity when forecasting the future trajectories of temperate benthic communities in a warming ocean.