Effects of warming on recruitment and marine benthic community development in Antarctica

Lead Research Organisation: NERC British Antarctic Survey
Department Name: Science Programmes

Abstract

One of the most important current questions in science, and one of the issues of most concern to society and decision makers is how life and biodiversity on Earth will respond to climate change (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, UN convention on Biological Diversity). Scientists and policymakers recognise that ecosystem level predictions of responses to change are particularly important. These types of predictions are a fundamental requirement for the future management of biodiversity, agricultural and fisheries concerns.
However, evaluations of likely responses to change at the ecosystem level are rare and fraught with difficulty. To date predictions of responses to change in animals have been primarily at the species level and based around 2 approaches. The first uses current species ranges (climate envelope models) and then predicts future ranges by assessing where similar conditions are likely to be from climate models. The second approach evaluates an organism's physiological capacity to cope with experimentally altered conditions in the laboratory. Both approaches have significant problems when scaling up beyond the species. Climate envelope approaches suffer from a lack of knowledge of adaptation rates and genetic and functional tolerance differences within and between populations. They also have problems because site-specific conditions often differ significantly from the average environments that most climate envelope models use. Physiological tolerance approaches are limited because they predominantly evaluate small numbers of species and because experimental rates of change are usually much faster than natural change. Both approaches suffer from a lack of characterisation of how ecological factors such as competition and predation will change. They also both need an increase of scale to be more relevant.
A key requirement is to improve understanding of assemblage or community level processes and responses. In the terrestrial environment, and for microbial communities this problem has been extensively addressed, mainly via field manipulation of conditions and through the use of laboratory based systems such as the ecotron. In marine studies, field-based approaches to investigating both organism responses and community level effects of warming are scarce, especially for marine benthic animals. Here we are proposing to use novel technology, developed over the last 3 years at the British Antarctic Survey, to overcome many of these problems and provide data not previously obtainable. We plan to deploy heated settlement panels alongside unheated controls at 3 sites near the Rothera research station in the Antarctic. At each site two treatments will have heated panels set at a constant 1C and 2C above ambient (to match roughly 50 and 100 year oceanic warming predictions). A third treatment will have seasonal heating to match 100 year predictions for local conditions. The approach of using heated panels in marine environments has not been previously used because of the technical difficulty of maintaining elevated temperatures in the sea. Working on slow-growing small encrusting species on the seabed allows this to be done where it is not possible elsewhere.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries of this research will vary with timescales. In the short-term the benefits will be directly to the science community, to conservationists and to policy makers concerned with developing marine protected areas in Antarctica. In the medium-term an improved mechanistic understanding of the effects of warming on nearshore benthic community development will be of value to similar groups outside Antarctica.
There are major concerns with how climate change will impact biodiversity and how this will affect ecosystems, and upstream ecosystem services. There is consensus that markedly improved models of the impacts of change are required and that these need to be at the ecosystem level. This requires improved understanding at the community level, especially for marine ectotherm species. This project will provide data important for the improvement of our ability to take current models of responses to change in marine environments and scale them up to ecosystem levels of understanding. Benefits will include:
To the public: there will be benefits in the short-term, because impacts of climate change are of strong public and media interest. We plan to meet this requirement through press releases via the BAS and NERC publicity offices. We will also make the information available on the BAS website and through interviews with TV, radio and press outlets, public lectures, school talks and a lecture series (the PI alone has given over 100 media interviews in the last 10 years).
To conservation Bodies: There will be benefits in two main areas for conservation bodies. Firstly there will be benefits from identifying the relative performances of the groups of organisms studied here under field warming conditions. There is currently little information on effects of warming on these characters for many of the early benthic colonising marine invertebrate groups in the field. Identifying the least resilient groups in our study will provide conservationists with a focus for later studies in temperate regions. Secondly understanding effects of warming at the assemblage/community level in marine systems will be a step towards a more sophisticated level of modelling of predictions of impact of change on marine biodiversity. This should lead to a generally improved level of information available for marine conservation.
To policymakers and environment agencies: Policymakers need to maintain healthy coastal environments for many societal requirements, including tourism, effluent breakdown and exploitation. Nearshore seabed communities play key roles in maintaining the health of these systems. Our data will provide novel information that will improve our abilities to predict the health of nearshore ecosystems in the coming decades, specifically in Antarctica, but with relevance elsewhere, because of the ubiquity of the major groups studied.
There are also potential economic consequences of this research. It is aimed at understanding how encrusting (biofouling) communities respond to a warmed environment. The dynamics and potential response to change of such communities are poorly understood at high latitude, yet the opening of an Arctic seaway is seen as a major likely development and currently marine antifouling is a multibillion dollar industry.
 
Description Effects of warming on recruitment and marine benthic community development in Antarctica. In the 2013/2014 Antarctic season we initiated the field elements of this project and successfully deployed 76 heated panels at 4 sites near the Rothera research station. These were all run at the designated temperatures and powered from the station generator supply. Colonisation was monitored monthly by the project PDRA through the first Antarctic winter and 3 monthly thereafter.

In the 2014/15 Antarctic season we measured growth rates and colonisation of heated settlement panels and found them to be much higher than control (unheated) panels in the early summer. This was surprising as the effect was clear even with only a 1C elevation of temperature. Ity was further surprising becasue the increase in growth was far more (nearly an order of magnitude more) than the expected effect of temperature on biological systems.

We also made a further deployment of panels in the UK, in Bangor as a comparison with the Antarctic in 2015-2016 for one year, with panels being reset every 3 months because they were 100% covered in that time. This had the advantage of allowing seasonal differences to be assessed..

We have now successfully completed the field elements of the project in Antarctica and panels and all other structures involved have been removed from the sea at Rothera and returned to UK. Samples were taken from panels for experiments on acute temperature limits of organisms recruited to the panels. These have been assessed and subsamples taken for the genetic analysis parts of the project back in the UK. Year round deployments of temperate panels in Bangor have been completed and data are under analysis.

Key findings to date (March 2017) are that growth is faster on warmed panels than controls in Antarctica and the increase in growth rate (x2 or more for key species) is very surprising for a 1C or 2C elevation of temperature. This level of increased growth is difficult to explain on the effect of temperature on standard biological processes. Growth is impacted differently in different seasons in the UK. The communities developing on heated panels are markedly different from controls, with more dominance of space by early fast growing species.


A manuscript has been published in Current Biology and a second manuscript is in preparation.
Exploitation Route Data will be available through the BAS website and the polar data centre when they are assimilated.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment,Transport,Other

URL http://www.antarctica.ac.uk
 
Description The field elements of this project are now completed. They have shown surprising increases of growth for the vast majority of species colonising heated asettlement panels in Antarctica. The increased growth is beyond that which can be explained by normal thermodynamic effects on biological processes. The increased growth dramatically changes community composition at later stages of development. In Bangor growth in spring and autumn was increased while in simmer and winter results were mixed. We have one paper published in a high impact journal (Current Biology) and a second in prepararion. The work has been presented in a range of outlets at conferences and to the public (total of 16 presentations involving these data). If anyone reads this can they send me an email on lspe@bas.ac.uk so I know it has been read.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Transport,Other
Impact Types Societal

 
Title Upper Thermal Limits (UTL) experiments on the Antarctic spirorbid Romanchella perrieri 
Description UTLs were used to determine whether whole animal acclimation had occurred in R. perrieri on heated settlement panels in the Antarctic. The panels were placed at 15m depth at two sites (South Cove and North Cove) near Rothera Research Station, Adelaide Island, Antarctic Peninsula (67.06861 S, 68.125 W). Heated and non-heated panels (one each of control, +1, +2) from the South Cove and North Cove sites colonised by R. perrieri were transferred to a 60 L jacketed tank with aerated sea water at the same temperature as the ambient sea water (0 degrees Celsius) and connected to a thermocirculator (Grant Instruments Ltd, Cambridge, UK). The temperature was raised at 1 degree Celsius h-1 with the temperature limit of each animal noted when they no longer responded to tactile stimuli.# Funding was provided by the NERC grant NE/J007501/1. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Description Heated Settlement Panel deployment 
Organisation Bangor University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provided resources as equipment and manpower to help deploy and monitor recruitment to heated settlement panels.
Collaborator Contribution They provided assistance with deployment of heated panels in the UK in the Menai Strait, and helped to analyse data produced.
Impact PhD chapter in thesis currently being written
Start Year 2014
 
Description University of Canterbury 
Organisation University of Canterbury
Department Gateway Antarctica
Country New Zealand 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Terching Fellowship at University of Canterbury plus joint grant written to monitore Ross Sea MPA
Collaborator Contribution Teaching, input to writing grant
Impact Grant application written to NZ government
Start Year 2016
 
Description Antarctic Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 250 academics from across the world attended

Several contacts were made asking for research collaborations. Three have led to concrete interactions
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Briefing Politicians in New Zealand 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Briefing New Zealand MP's, Ambassadors from other countries and the Mayor of Christchurch on climate change, Antarctica and impacts on animals living there.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Immelman Lecture at University of bielefeld 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Gave the invited annual Immelman Lectur at Bielefeld University. This is an annual Univeristy scale presentation given by invited global leaders in the given field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Innovation presentation to Cambridge university 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 60 Cambridge university academics attended. The aim was to stimulate thinking about collaborations around the BAs/UCam innovation centre.

12 applications for pilot funded projects from the U Cam call in 2013 were made following this presentation. 6 were successful and are now running
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Invited specialist conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 35 leading international academics attended

Much progress in thinking in field
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Keynote presentation to Env East and Cambridge DTPs spring meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynot presentation at DTP spring meeting of 2 NERC funded DTPs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Keynote talk at Italian Society for experimental Biology, Padua 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Keynote talk at major international conference on adaptations of antarctic marine species and their resilience to climate change
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Malac Soc 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 120 international academics attended

Much following interest and debate. Two requests for collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Media interest 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Press releases by BAS and also by the publishers (Cell Press) of the main paper were taken up by over 100 media outlets. There were subsequently several radio interviews on this work in media outlets across the globe including USA, UK, Australia and Germany.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Naked scientist 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Panel memeber of the Naked scientist programme for rdio - reached audiences of tens of thousands

Further requests for information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Public keynote talk at the openeing of the Antarctic Season in Christchurch, NZ 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact openinig keynote presentation in the opening of the Antarctic Season event in Christchurch, New Zealand
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Radio 4 the life scientific 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact the PI (LSP) weas subject of the radio 4 "Life Scientific" programme broadcast on Radio 4 and the World Service

Several groups (schools, WI groups and Camera Clubs) have asked for further information or visits
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description SCAR EBA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 50-60 invited attendees of international specialists meeting

further requests for information. Two collaborations progressed
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description SCAR Horizon Scan 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 80 leading international academics came together to identify the large questions on the horizon for antarctic research. To inform the academic community, stakeholder and policy maker decisions.

1 paper in Nature, a second in Antarctic science. Follow up meetings in at least 6 countries to identify how to use the information produced in national programmes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Talk to Galapagos Trust 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 50 invited stakeholders and supporters of the Galapagos trust attended. My presentation was on similarities between the problems caused by climate change in Antarctica and the Galapagos. Penguin examples were amongst severl others.

The audience spent over 30 mins in the question session after the presentation
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Talk to Oxford Science Union 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact 75 academics attended the presentation

n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description uk horizon Scan 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact 20-30 academics and managers attended meeting and discussion groups

Information provided for future decisions on priorities for funding
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014