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The dual benefit of ocean acidification for the laminarialean kelp, Saccharina latissima: Enhanced growth and reduced herbivory

Craig S. Young, Michael H. Doall, Christopher J. Gobler*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The laminarialean kelp, Saccharina latissima, is a common macroalgae along rocky shorelines that is also frequently used in aquaculture. This study examined how ocean acidification may alter the growth of S. latissima as well as grazing on S. latissima by the gastropod, Lacuna vincta. Under elevated nutrients, S. latissima experienced significantly enhanced growth at pCO2 levels >1,200 µatm compared to ambient pCO2 (~400 µatm). Elevated pCO2 (>830 µatm) also significantly reduced herbivory of L. vincta grazing on S. latissima relative to ambient pCO2. There was no difference in grazing of S. latissima previously grown under elevated or ambient pCO2, suggesting lowered herbivory was due to harm to the gastropods rather than alteration of the biochemical composition of the kelp. Decreased herbivory was specifically elicited when L. vincta were exposed to elevated pCO2 in the absence of food for >18 h prior to grazing, with reduced grazing persisting 72 h. Elevated growth of S. latissima and reduced grazing by L. vincta at 1,200 µatm pCO2 combined to increase net growth rates of S. latissima by more than four-fold relative to ambient pCO2. L. vincta consumed 70% of daily production by S. latissima under ambient pCO2 but only 38% and 9% at 800 µatm and 1,200 µatm, respectively. Collectively, decreased grazing by L. vincta coupled with enhanced growth of S. latissima under elevated pCO2 demonstrates that increased CO2 associated with climate change and/or coastal processes will dually benefit commercially and ecologically important kelps by both promoting growth and reducing grazing pressure.