Marine habitats are socially and economically important to millions of people around the world, but accelerated global climate change poses a significant threat to aquatic organisms and communities. Accurate predictions of the effects seawater warming and other stressors on marine resources are needed to successfully manage our seas and plan for future change. Of all the facets of global change, increasing temperature is perhaps the most important, as temperature affects all biological processes. In terrestrial systems, researchers have used polytunnels and cloches to manipulate climate to investigate the effects of warming on community structure, dynamics, and biodiversity. There have been no such experiments conducted in the marine realm. As such, a major knowledge gap relates to the lack of field-based experiments conducted on marine organisms to date, and most knowledge stems from highly artificial laboratory manipulations. This project will employ a novel technique to manipulate temperature in situ, to examine the effects of warming on marine communities on hard surfaces. The ‘hot-plate’ technology has been developed in Australia over the last 2 years, and has facilitated the first controlled manipulation of temperature in a marine habitat. This project will support transfer of knowledge, facilitate further development of this technology, and allow comparative experiments to be conducted in both Australia and Europe, thus enhancing the ecological relevance of the work. Warming experiments will be combined with simultaneous manipulations of other global change stressors (sedimentation, nutrients, physical disturbance, seawater chemistry) to investigate the effects of multiple factors on the recruitment, growth and development of marine communities. The research has important implications for ecological theory and conservation, as well as industrial practises such as biofouling management and aquaculture.
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