Rhodolith primary and carbonate production in a changing ocean: The interplay of warming and nutrients

N. Schubert, V.W. Salazar, W.A. Rich, M. Vivanco Bercovich, A.C. Almeida Saá, S.D. Fadigas, J. Silva, P.A. Horta

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24 Scopus citations


Rhodolith beds, like many other marine ecosystems, are affected by climate change that is causing an increase in the magnitude and frequency of extreme high temperature events (heat waves). Unfortunately, this does not represent the sole peril for these communities, as coastal urbanization in conjunction with altered precipitation patterns can increase terrestrial-derived nutrient input. In Brazil, rhodolith beds are among the most extensive coastal benthic ecosystems, but despite their vast distribution and great ecological and economic importance, studies on the productivity of these communities and the impact of changing environmental conditions are almost non-existent. This study addressed the individual and combined effects of increases in temperature and nutrient concentration on the physiological performance of two widely distributed rhodolith species, Lithothamnion crispatum and Melyvonnea erubescens. The results showed species-specific responses in net photosynthetic performance, with no response in L. crispatum, while M. erubescens responded negatively to both increase in temperature and nutrients. In contrast, calcification in both species showed a significant decline at high temperature. No interactive effects were found between temperature and nutrients, yet their combined negative effects were additive, resulting in negative daily-integrated net productivity and a large decline in daily carbonate production in both species. This has strong implications for rhodolith bed primary productivity and carbonate production, as heat waves may potentially cause a strong decline in carbonate production (ca. 50% loss), accompanied by a severe drop in primary productivity that will be even more pronounced under high-nutrient conditions. Also, the species-specific responses to changes in temperature and nutrient concentration suggest that the magnitude of impact of these factors on rhodolith bed productivity will depend on the species dominating the community and may finally result in changes in rhodolith community composition.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-468
Number of pages14
JournalScience of The Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 23 2019


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