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Climate change and the ecology of fear
Date:6/27/2014

Climate change is predicted to have major impacts on the many species that call our rocky shorelines home. Indeed, species living in these intertidal habitats, which spend half their day exposed to air and the other half submerged by water, may be subjected to a double whammy as both air and water temperatures rise. Given the reliance of human society on nearshore coastal ecosystems, it is critical that we better understand how climate change will affect them.

In a recent study published in Global Change Biology, Northeastern University professor Geoffrey C. Trussell, postdoctoral scholar Luke Miller, and PhD student Catherine Matassa, examine how the simultaneous changes in ocean and air temperatures affect the interaction between an invasive crab predator and one of its common prey. "Species interactions, particularly those between predators and their prey, are the lattice that often determine the organization and dynamics of these communities. And many ecologists think that climate change stands to alter these interactions, which can be quite disruptive for the health and functioning of natural communities."

This paper delivers a novel approach that allows realistic, experimental simulations of predicted climate change scenarios for marine organisms. Trussell and his team developed a "climate change array" that tracks natural variation in climate and combines that with projected warming scenarios for rocky intertidal habitats in Massachusetts Bay. "This approach is much more appropriate because it does not hammer organisms with constant elevated temperatures, which could lead to overestimates of climate change impacts," says Trussell. "Despite our more conservative approach, we still witnessed strong negative impacts of elevated air and water temperature, particularly for the prey species in our experimental food chains."

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Contact: Lori Lennon
l.lennon@neu.edu
617-680-5129
Northeastern University College of Science
Source:Eurekalert

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