Comparison of the impacts of consumers, ambient UV, and future UVB irradiance on mid‐latitudinal macroepibenthic assemblages.

Abstract

Future levels in ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation are expected to increase directly due to stratospheric ozone depletion and under water indirectly by, for example, global warming effects on DOC concentrations, altered trophic interactions in the plankton, or reduced eutrophication. While detrimental UV effects have been reported at the cellular level, little to nothing is known about community-wide effects of ambient and future UVB radiation.

In a 4-month field experiment, the ambient UV regime was (i) reduced by cut-off filters which removed either UVB or total UV from the solar spectrum or (ii) increased to predicted future levels by UVB lamps. To allow relating the effects of present and future UV regimes to another important ecological control of community structure and diversity in subtidal marine habitats, consumer effects were quantified by an exclusion treatment under ambient light regimes. Ambient UV regimes did not affect community structure, biomass accrual, and diversity.

In contrast, under enhanced UVB levels, the dominance of the competitively superior blue mussels increased and species richness and biomass accrual decreased. Species composition of the assemblages differed between the two UV regimes. Effects of enhanced UVB radiation and of consumption on biomass accrual, diversity, and structure of the community were comparable in magnitude and timing, but of opposite direction.

In contrast, the effects of enhanced UVB radiation on growth and abundance of mussels were in the same direction, but shorter and weaker than consumer effects. Most UV effects were transitory and vanished within the first 2 months of succession. Our results indicate that present and future UVB levels may be of limited importance and not stronger in effect size than other ecological controls in structuring the shallow-water low-diversity macrobenthic communities in temperate regions.

Citation

Molis, M. and Wahl, M., 2009. Comparison of the impacts of consumers, ambient UV, and future UVB irradiance on mid‐latitudinal macroepibenthic assemblages. Global Change Biology, 15(7), pp.1833-1845.

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