Lake Baikal amphipods under climate change: thermal constraints and ecological consequences

Lena.Jakob [ at ]


Lake Baikal, the world's most voluminous freshwater lake, has experienced unprecedented warming during the last decades. A uniquely diverse amphipod fauna inhabits the littoral zone and can serve as a model system to identify the role of thermal tolerance under climate change. This study aimed to identify sublethal thermal constraints in two of the most abundant endemic Baikal amphipods, Eulimnogammarus verrucosus and Eulimnogammarus cyaneus, and Gammarus lacustris, a ubiquitous gammarid of the Holarctic. As the latter is only found in some shallow isolated bays of the lake, we further addressed the question whether rising temperatures could promote the widespread invasion of this non-endemic species into the littoral zone. Animals were exposed to gradual temperature increases (4 week, 0.8 °C/d; 24 h, 1 °C/h) starting from the reported annual mean temperature of the Baikal littoral (6 °C). Within the framework of oxygen- and capacity-limited thermal tolerance (OCLTT), we used a nonlinear regression approach to determine the points at which the changing temperature-dependence of relevant physiological processes indicates the onset of limitation. Limitations in ventilation representing the first limits of thermal tolerance (pejus (= “getting worse”) temperatures (Tp)) were recorded at 10.6 (95% confidence interval; 9.5, 11.7), 19.1 (17.9, 20.2), and 21.1 (19.8, 22.4) °C in E. verrucosus, E. cyaneus, and G. lacustris, respectively. Field observations revealed that E. verrucosus retreated from the upper littoral to deeper and cooler waters once its Tp was surpassed, identifying Tp as the ecological thermal boundary. Constraints in oxygen consumption at higher than critical temperatures (Tc) led to an exponential increase in mortality in all species. Exposure to short-term warming resulted in higher threshold values, consistent with a time dependence of thermal tolerance. In conclusion, species-specific limits to oxygen supply capacity are likely key in the onset of constraining (beyond pejus) and then life-threatening (beyond critical) conditions. Ecological consequences of these limits are mediated through behavioral plasticity in E. verrucosus. However, similar upper thermal limits in E. cyaneus (endemic, Baikal) and G. lacustris (ubiquitous, Holarctic) indicate that the potential invader G. lacustris would not necessarily benefit from rising temperatures. Secondary effects of increasing temperatures remain to be investigated.

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DOI 10.1002/ecs2.1308

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Jakob, L. , Axenov-Gribanov, D. V. , Gurkov, A. N. , Ginzburg, M. , Bedulina, D. S. , Timofeyev, M. A. , Luckenbach, T. , Lucassen, M. , Sartoris, F. J. and Pörtner, H. O. (2016): Lake Baikal amphipods under climate change: thermal constraints and ecological consequences , Ecosphere, 7 (3), e01308 . doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1308

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