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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 685:183-196 (2022)  -  DOI:

Functional thermal limits are determined by rate of warming during simulated marine heatwaves

Rebecca De Leij1,2,*, Laura J. Grange2, Lloyd S. Peck3

1University of Southampton, Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton SO14 3ZH, UK
2School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2DG, UK
3British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Rd, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine heatwaves (MHWs) are increasing in both intensity and frequency against a backdrop of gradual warming associated with climate change. In the context of MHWs, animals are likely to experience sub-lethal rather than lethal effects, defining long-term limits to survival and/or impacting individual and population fitness. We investigated how functional sub-lethal limits track critical thresholds and how this relationship changes with warming rate. To this end, we monitored basic functioning, specifically the ability to right, feed and assimilate energy, as well as oxygen consumption rate in the common Antarctic sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri. Water temperature in experimental systems was increased at rates of 1, 0.5 and 0.3°C d-1, in line with the characteristics of MHW events previously experienced at the site where the study urchins were collected on the Antarctica Peninsula. Functioning was assessed during the simulation of MHWs, and sub-lethal limits were determined when the rate of functional degradation changed as temperature increased. Results suggest that thermal sensitivity varies between the key biological functions measured, with the ability to right having the highest thermal threshold. Functions deteriorated at lower temperatures when warming was more rapid (1°C d-1), contrary to lethal critical thresholds, which were reached at lower temperatures when warming was slower (0.3°C d-1). MHWs and their impacts extend far beyond Antarctica, and in this context, our analyses indicate that the onset rate of MHWs is critical in determining the ability of an organism to tolerate short-term elevated temperatures.

KEY WORDS: Extreme warming events · Sub-lethal limits · Thermal tolerance · Climate change · Polar · Segmented regression · Echinoderm · Sterechinus neumayeri

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Cite this article as: De Leij R, Grange LJ, Peck LS (2022) Functional thermal limits are determined by rate of warming during simulated marine heatwaves. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 685:183-196.

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