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Field and laboratory studies reveal interacting effects of stream oxygenation and warming on aquatic ectotherms

Verberk, Wilco C. E. P., Durance, Isabelle ORCID:, Vaughan, Ian P. ORCID: and Ormerod, Steve J. ORCID: 2016. Field and laboratory studies reveal interacting effects of stream oxygenation and warming on aquatic ectotherms. Global Change Biology 22 (5) , pp. 1769-1778. 10.1111/gcb.13240

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Aquatic ecological responses to climatic warming are complicated by interactions between thermal effects and other environmental stressors such as organic pollution and hypoxia. Laboratory experiments have demonstrated how oxygen limitation can set heat tolerance for some aquatic ectotherms, but only at unrealistic lethal temperatures and without field data to assess whether oxygen shortages might also underlie sublethal warming effects. Here, we test whether oxygen availability affects both lethal and nonlethal impacts of warming on two widespread Eurasian mayflies, Ephemera danica, Müller 1764 and Serratella ignita (Poda 1761). Mayfly nymphs are often a dominant component of the invertebrate assemblage in streams, and play a vital role in aquatic and riparian food webs. In the laboratory, lethal impacts of warming were assessed under three oxygen conditions. In the field, effects of oxygen availability on nonlethal impacts of warming were assessed from mayfly occurrence in 42 293 UK stream samples where water temperature and biochemical oxygen demand were measured. Oxygen limitation affected both lethal and sublethal impacts of warming in each species. Hypoxia lowered lethal limits by 5.5 °C (±2.13) and 8.2 °C (±0.62) for E. danica and S. ignita respectively. Field data confirmed the importance of oxygen limitation in warmer waters; poor oxygenation drastically reduced site occupancy, and reductions were especially pronounced under warm water conditions. Consequently, poor oxygenation lowered optimal stream temperatures for both species. The broad concordance shown here between laboratory results and extensive field data suggests that oxygen limitation not only impairs survival at thermal extremes but also restricts species abundance in the field at temperatures well below upper lethal limits. Stream oxygenation could thus control the vulnerability of aquatic ectotherms to global warming. Improving water oxygenation and reducing pollution can provide key facets of climate change adaptation for running waters.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1354-1013
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 5 April 2016
Date of Acceptance: 22 January 2016
Last Modified: 02 May 2023 13:31

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