The carbon turnover response to thermal stress of a dominant coralline alga on the fast warming Levant coast

Tamar Guy-Haim, Jacob Silverman, Stefanie Raddatz, Martin Wahl, Alvaro Israel, Gil Rilov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Marine organisms in the Mediterranean Sea experience the highest temperatures, salinities and oligotrophic conditions in its easternmost part along the eastern shores of the Levantine basin. Over the past three decades this region has warmed by ca. 1.5-3.0°C with current winter and summer extremums of 17°C and 31°C, respectively. In this study, we tested the response of the native abundant articulated coralline red alga Ellisolandia elongata to this warming. Coralline algae play a key role in coastal ecosystems by structuring marine habitats, providing shelter for a myriad of species, and substantially influencing the coastal carbon budget. Despite being ubiquitous along the Levantine coasts, coralline's ecology, physiology, and biogeochemical role are nearly unknown as well as their performance under different temperatures. Measurements of primary production, respiration and calcification in the temperatures range 15-35°C, which represent past, present and predicted local annual conditions, indicated two physiological tipping points: 1) metabolic breakdown above 31°C; 2) metabolic shift at 23°C, possibly promoting seasonal algal heterotrichy (perennation of the alga without its fronds). Annual production rates were evaluated under the current and predicted temperature regimes indicating a loss of ca. one third of the organic carbon and carbonate production by corallines contributed to the shallow Levantine coast in the upcoming decades. We predict that with continued warming, Eastern Mediterranean corallines will experience a westward range contraction, initiating with phenological shifts, followed by performance declines and population decreases, ending with local extinctions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1120-1133
Number of pages14
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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