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MEPS 672:111-121 (2021)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13802

Genotypic variation in response to extreme events may facilitate kelp adaptation under future climates

Nahlah A. Alsuwaiyan1,2,, Sofie Vranken1, Karen Filbee-Dexter1,3, Marion Cambridge1, Melinda A. Coleman1,4,5, Thomas Wernberg1,3,6,*

1School of Biological Sciences and UWA Oceans Institute, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
2Department of Biology, Unaizah College of Sciences and Arts, Qassim University, Unaizah 51911, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
3Institute of Marine Research, His 4817, Norway
4National Marine Science Centre, Southern Cross University, PO Box 4321, Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450, Australia
5Department of Primary Industries, National Marine Science Centre, 2 Bay Drive, Coffs Harbor, NSW 2450, Australia
6Department of Science and Environment, Roskilde University, Roskilde 4000, Denmark
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine heatwaves (MHWs) have caused declines in many kelp forests globally. Although the ecological effects of these climatic extremes have been well examined, studies on the role of genotypic variation in underpinning population responses under pressures are lacking. Understanding how kelps respond to different warming profiles and, in particular, intraspecific variation in responses is necessary to confidently anticipate the future of kelp forests, yet this remains a critical knowledge gap for most species. This study examined the responses of early life stages of 9 different genotypes of the Australian kelp Ecklonia radiata to different MHW profiles, where cumulative heat intensity was kept constant: control treatment (constant 19°C), heat spikes (fluctuating 19-23°C), low intensity MHW (ramp up 23°C) and high intensity MHW (ramp up 27°C). Overall, we found significant declines in E. radiata gametophyte performance in all MHW treatments and delays in sporophyte recruitment during MHW exposure. We also found significant genotype by environment (G×E) interactions, suggesting tolerance to acute thermal stress is influenced by genetic variation. Our results showed that offspring from different genotypes within the same population respond differently to MHWs, indicating that some genotypes are susceptible to MHWs while others are more resistant. While the effects on standing genetic variation and subsequent susceptibility to other stressors are unknown, our findings suggest that in addition to immediate impacts on marine organisms, natural genotypic variation in response to thermal anomalies may facilitate the gradual evolution of populations with increased thermal tolerance under future climates.


KEY WORDS: Genetic variation · Adaptation · Thermal reaction norms · Marine heatwave · Growth · Kelp · Ocean warming


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Cite this article as: Alsuwaiyan NA, Vranken S, Filbee-Dexter K, Cambridge M, Coleman MA, Wernberg T (2021) Genotypic variation in response to extreme events may facilitate kelp adaptation under future climates. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 672:111-121. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13802

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