Respiration of ectotherms is predicted to increase faster with rising environmental temperature than photosynthesis of primary producers because of the differential temperature dependent kinetics of the key enzymes involved. Accordingly, if biological processes at higher levels of complexity are constrained by underlying metabolic functions, food consumption by heterotrophs should increase more rapidly with rising temperature than photo-autoptrophic primary production. We compared rates of photosynthesis and growth of the benthic seaweed Fucus vesiculosus with respiration and consumption of the isopod Idotea baltica to achieve a mechanistic understanding why warming strengthens marine plant–herbivore interactions. In laboratory experiments thallus pieces of the seaweed and individuals of the grazer were exposed to constant temperatures at a range from 10 to 20 °C. Photosynthesis of F. vesiculosus did not vary with temperature indicating efficient thermal acclimation whereas growth of the algae clearly increased with temperature. Respiration and food consumption of I. baltica also increased with temperature. Grazer consumption scaled about 2.5 times faster with temperature than seaweed production. The resulting mismatch between algal production and herbivore consumption may result in a net loss of algal tissue at elevated temperatures. Our study provides an explanation for faster decomposition of seaweeds at elevated temperatures despite the positive effects of high temperatures on algal growth.
Helmholtz Research Programs > PACES II (2014-2018) > TOPIC 4: Research in science-stakeholder interactions > WP 4.3: Providing information – enabling knowledge