Co-occurrence of native and invasive macroalgae might be facilitated under global warming

C. Bommarito, S. Noè, D. M. Díaz-Morales, I. Lukić, C. Hiebenthal, G. Rilov, T. Guy-Haim, M. Wahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change is driving compositional shifts in ecological communities directly by affecting species and indirectly through changes in species interactions. For example, competitive hierarchies can be inversed when competitive dominants are more susceptible to climate change. The brown seaweed Fucus vesiculosus is a foundation species in the Baltic Sea, experiencing novel interactions with the invasive red seaweed Gracilaria vermiculophylla, which is known for its high tolerance to environmental stress. We investigated the direct and interactive effects of warming and co-occurrence of the two algal species on their performance, by applying four climate change-relevant temperature scenarios: 1) cooling ) 2 °C below ambient – representing past conditions), 2) ambient summer temperature (18 °C), 3) IPCC RCP2.6 warming scenario (1 °C above ambient), and 4) RCP8.5 warming (3 °C above ambient) for 30 days and two compositional levels (mono and co-cultured algae) in a fully-crossed design. The RCP8.5 warming scenario increased photosynthesis, respiration, and nutrients' uptake rates of mono- and co-cultured G. vermiculophylla while growth was reduced. An increase in photosynthesis and essential nutrients' uptake and, at the same time, a growth reduction might result from increasing stress and energy demand of G. vermiculophylla under warming. In contrast, the growth of mono-cultured F. vesiculosus significantly increased in the highest warming treatment (+3 °C). The cooling treatment (−2 °C) exerted a slight negative effect only on co-cultured F. vesiculosus photosynthesis, compared to the ambient treatment. Interestingly, at ambient and warming (RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 scenarios) treatments, both F. vesiculosus and G. vermiculophylla appear to benefit from the presence of each other. Our results suggest that short exposure of F. vesiculosus to moderate or severe global warming scenarios may not directly affect or even slightly enhance its performance, while G. vermiculophylla net performance (growth) could be directly hampered by warming.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number169087
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date4 Dec 2023
StatePublished - 20 Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Fucus vesiculosus
  • Global warming
  • Gracilaria vermiculophylla
  • Invasive species
  • Macroalgae
  • Temperature

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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