Ecosystem engineers under pressure – a new publication in the Global Change Biology

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Rhodoliths (Picture: FAU/Dr. Sebastian Teichert)

Rising water temperatures caused by climate change also put pressure on important ecosystem engineers. While everyone is aware of coral and the huge reefs it forms, other architects of the natural world include certain species of red algae that create less well-known structures such as spheres the size of a fist or handball known as “rhodoliths”. Both constructions offer hiding places, hunting grounds and nurseries for colorful underwater life, thereby providing habits and encouraging biological diversity under the waves. Climate change is having a negative effect not only on coral reefs but also on the red algae structures in icy polar regions. Sebastian Teichert from the Chair of Paleoenvironmental Research at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) and his colleagues have now discovered that if water at the surface becomes one degree Celsius warmer, this slows the growth of the rhodolith nodules by more than ten percent. They have published their findings in the journal Global Change Biology.

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