Trait gradients inform predictions of seagrass meadows changes to future warming

Sci Rep. 2021 Sep 13;11(1):18107. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-97611-x.


Comparing populations across temperature gradients can inform how global warming will impact the structure and function of ecosystems. Shoot density, morphometry and productivity of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica to temperature variation was quantified at eight locations in Sardinia (western Mediterranean Sea) along a natural sea surface temperature (SST) gradient. The locations are spanned for a narrow range of latitude (1.5°), allowing the minimization of the effect of eventual photoperiod variability. Mean SST predicted P. oceanica meadow structure, with increased temperature correlated with higher shoot density, but lower leaf and rhizome width, and rhizome biomass. Chlorophyll a (Chl-a) strongly impacted seagrass traits independent of SST. Disentangling the effects of SST and Chl-a on seagrass meadow shoot density revealed that they work independently, but in the same direction with potential synergism. Space-for-time substitution predicts that global warming will trigger denser seagrass meadows with slender shoots, fewer leaves, and strongly impact seagrass ecosystem. Future investigations should evaluate if global warming will erode the ecosystem services provided by seagrass meadows.

PMID:34518602 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-021-97611-x


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