Kurman, M.D. and C.P. terHorst. 2023.

Kurman, M.D. and C.P. terHorst. 2023. Individual variation in susceptibility to temperature in early life history stages of giant kelp. Marine Ecology 2023;00:e12770. https://doi.org/10.1111/maec.12770


Because foundation species create structure in a community, understanding their ecological and evolutionary responses to global change is critical for predicting the ecological and economic management of species and communities that rely on them. Giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) is a globally distributed foundation species with seasonal fluctuations in abundance in response to local nutrient levels, storm intensity, and ocean temperatures. Here we examine genetic variation in individual and population-level responses of early life history stages (zoospore settlement, survival, and gametogenesis) to increased temperatures to determine the potential for natural selection on temperature-tolerant individuals that would allow adaptation to a changing climate. We collected fertile M. pyrifera sporophyll blades from three sites along the California coast (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey Bay) and induced zoospore release in the lab. Spores settled on microscope slides at three treatment temperatures (16, 20, and 22°C), matured for 21 days, and were imaged weekly to determine settlement, survival, and maturation success. On average, individuals from all sites showed lower rates of settlement and maturation in response to increasing temperature. However, the magnitude of the responses to temperature varied among populations. Survival tended to increase with temperature in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara populations but decreased with increasing temperature for the Monterey Bay population. We observed little genetic variation in temperature responses among individuals within sites, suggesting little scope for evolution within populations to increase the resilience of M. pyrifera populations to warming ocean temperatures and predicted declines in kelp abundance. Yet sufficient dispersal among populations could allow for adaptation of early life history traits among populations via evolutionary rescue of declining populations.


climate change, foundation species, genetic variation, macroalgae, Macrocystis pyrifera, ocean warming

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