THEME 2: Effect of climate change on benthic sediment communities and their ecology
Coastal systems are recognised as being one of the first, and most sensitive systems, to be affected by climate change. Sea level rise, temperature and ocean acidification may all have a significant effect on their ecology of these systems and we are working to predict what some of these effects might be. It has become clear that biodiversity is important in delivering ecosystem function but also that the various pressures on these systems do not act independently but will combined to produce an overall effect.
For example, temperature on its own will help to drive system metabolism but if organisms are also sensitive to pH then the effects may be more extreme than expected from temperature alone. Our work has shown that indeed temperature seems to be the main driving force but the consequences of increasing temperature are mediated both by environmental context and by the presence of other pressures (multiple stressors). The SERG group conducts both laboratory and field-based studies to investigate this emerging topic. In recent work, we have shown that there is the potential for temperature rise to cause a switch from overall net system productivity to heterotrophy in estuarine systems. This has important consequences for the services we might expect these systems to provide in the future.