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Ocean acidification and food limitation combine to suppress herbivory by the gastropod, Lacuna vincta

Craig S. Young, Alyson Lowell, Bradley Peterson, Christopher J. Gobler*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: While ocean acidification has different effects on herbivores and autotrophs, how acidification may influence herbivory is poorly understood. This study examined how grazing by the gastropod, Lacuna vincta, on the macroalgae, Ulva, is influenced by ocean acidification. Herbivory by Lacuna was significantly reduced under elevated pCO2 (1500–2000 µatm) relative to ambient pCO2 (~400 µatm). This significant decrease in herbivory was unrelated to the physiological status of Ulva but rather was specifically elicited when Lacuna was exposed to elevated pCO2 in the absence of food for 18 to 24 h prior to grazing Ulva. The negative effects of elevated pCO2 on Lacuna were absent at 400–800 µatm pCO2 or when fed but persisted for up to 72 h following a 24 h exposure to elevated pCO2 without food. Depressed respiration rates in Lacuna following exposure to high pCO2 without food indicated these conditions produced metabolic suppression potentially associated with acidosis. Collectively, the lasting (72 h) nature of grazing inhibition of Lacuna following brief exposure (18 h) to moderate pCO2 levels (>~1,500 µatm) when food was not available suggests this process could have broad effects on the dynamics of macroalgae in estuaries where Lacuna is a dominant grazer; these effects will be amplified as climate change progresses.