Escaping herbivory: ocean warming as a refuge for primary producers where consumer metabolism and consumption cannot pursue

Abstract

Ocean warming is anticipated to strengthen the persistence of turf-forming habitat, yet the concomitant elevation of grazer metabolic rates may accelerate per capita rates of consumption to counter turf predominance. Whilst this possibility of strong top-down control is supported by the metabolic theory of ecology (MTE), it assumes that consumer metabolism and consumption keep pace with increasing production. This assumption was tested by quantifying the metabolic rates of turfs and herbivorous gastropods under a series of elevated temperatures in which the ensuing production and consumption were observed. We discovered that as temperature increases towards near-future levels (year 2100), consumption rates of gastropods peak earlier than the rate of growth of producers. Hence, turfs have greater capacity to persist under near-future temperatures than the capacity for herbivores to counter their growth. These results suggest that whilst MTE predicts stronger top-down control, understanding whether consumer–producer responses are synchronous is key to assessing the future strength of top-down control.

DOI: 10.1007/s00442-015-3438-8

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@article{Mertens2015EscapingHO, title={Escaping herbivory: ocean warming as a refuge for primary producers where consumer metabolism and consumption cannot pursue}, author={Nicole L. Mertens and Bayden D Russell and Sean D Connell}, journal={Oecologia}, year={2015}, volume={179}, pages={1223-1229} }