Ocean warming and acidification affect species populations, but how interactions within communities are affected and how this translates into ecosystem functioning and resilience remain poorly understood. Here we demonstrate that experimental ocean warming and acidification significantly alters the interaction network among porewater nutrients, primary producers, herbivores and burrowing invertebrates in a seafloor sediment community, and is linked to behavioural plasticity in the clam Scrobicularia plana. Warming and acidification induced a shift in the clam’s feeding mode from predominantly suspension feeding under ambient conditions to deposit feeding with cascading effects on nutrient supply to primary producers. Surface-dwelling invertebrates were more tolerant to warming and acidification in the presence of S. plana, most probably due to the stimulatory effect of the clam on their microalgal food resources. This study demonstrates that predictions of population resilience to climate change require consideration of non-lethal effects such as behavioural changes of key species.
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The research leading to the results presented in this publication was carried out with infrastructure funded by EMBRC Belgium - FWO project GOH3817N. This work was co-funded by a MARES Joint Doctorate programme grant (2012-1720/001-001-EMJD) to E.Z.O. C.V.C. acknowledges the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) for his postdoctoral research fellow grant (FWO-11.2.380.11.N.00). Pressure sensor development was funded by grants from the US Office of Naval Research (N00014-0310352) and the US National Science Foundation (OCE 0928002) to S.A.W. and D.S.W. Additional funding for this project was obtained from the Special Research Fund (BOF) from Ghent University through GOA projects 01GA1911W and 01G02617. We acknowledge Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) for the total alkalinity measurements.
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature Climate Change thanks Paul Snelgrove, Cristian Vargas and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Van Colen, C., Ong, E.Z., Briffa, M. et al. Clam feeding plasticity reduces herbivore vulnerability to ocean warming and acidification. Nat. Clim. Chang. 10, 162–166 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0679-2