New research suggests seaweed species may adapt to higher temperatures

Jun 06, 2013
Neptune's necklace. Credit: Jennifer Clark

(Phys.org) —Breakthrough research has shown a species of marine algae commonly found along Australia's rocky shores may be able to adapt to increasing air and seawater temperatures, providing insight into the impacts of global warming on the future biodiversity of Australia's coastlines.

The ability of Hormosira banksii, commonly known as Neptune's necklace, to tolerate higher temperatures suggests that this habitat-forming alga has an intrinsic capacity to cope with climate change.

Born in Canada, Jennifer Clark never imagined she would spend her winter hours clambering around the wave-exposed rocky shores of Bilgola and Pearl Beaches to collect adult specimens of Australian seaweed.

Overcoming the challenges has paid off for the UTS Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster (C3) PhD candidate however, with her research – supported by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science – recently published in the Journal of Phycology.

It is the first study of a marine alga that shows the offspring from different parents respond differently to elevated temperatures.

"Studies clearly show that global are rising but we have little understanding of the capacity for marine organisms to adapt to the predicted long term increases in ," Ms Clark said.

Jennifer Clark collecting seaweed samples. Credit: supplied

"Hormosira banksii makes an excellent model for examining the potential for to adapt because it is an important intertidal species in Australia and New Zealand, providing habitat for many other species.

"These cling to rock platforms and don't have much ability to disperse, limiting the amongst populations. It was therefore assumed, until now, that they wouldn't be able to adapt to changes in climate as they can't move to avoid temperature changes and they are already living close to their thermal tolerances," she said.

However, the research of Ms Clark and her C3 colleagues showed that temperature tolerance in this habitat-forming species can be passed on to the next generation, meaning they have the potential to adapt to rising temperatures.

New plants may therefore be less sensitive to heat waves during the summer, or high temperature events during other seasons, giving the researchers some optimism that this iconic species will remain prominent on our rocky shores.

Future research will target whether high temperature tolerance is traded off with other characteristics that help Neptune's necklace survive other types of stress.

Explore further: Man 'expelled from Croatia for punching monk seal'

More information: Clark, J. et al. Potential for adaptation in response to thermal stress in an intertidal macroalga, Journal of Phycology. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10… 1/jpy.12067/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ocean heatwave decimates vital seaweed habitat

Jan 22, 2013

The decimation of a seaweed that provides vital habitat for an interdependent web of marine species off the WA coast, as a consequence of a record ocean heatwave, has been revealed in a paper published in ...

Global warming could kill off snails

Feb 07, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Climate change models must be reworked in a bid to save some of the world’s smallest and slimiest creatures from extinction, a Flinders University PhD candidate warns.

Marine biodiversity loss due to warming and predation: study

Nov 28, 2011

The biodiversity loss caused by climate change will result from a combination of rising temperatures and predation – and may be more severe than currently predicted, according to a study by University of British Columbia ...

Recommended for you

Brother of Hibiscus is found alive and well on Maui

9 hours ago

Most people are familiar with Hibiscus flowers- they are an iconic symbol of tropical resorts worldwide where they are commonly planted in the landscape. Some, like Hawaii's State Flower- Hibiscus brackenridgei- are en ...

Boat noise impacts development and survival of sea hares

12 hours ago

While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes ...

Classic Lewis Carroll character inspires new ecological model

Jul 30, 2014

Inspired by the Red Queen in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, collaborators from the University of Illinois and National University of Singapore improved a 35-year-old ecology model to better understand how species ...

Saving seeds the right way can save the world's plants

Jul 30, 2014

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world's most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks ...

User comments : 0