Marine species can cling together to buy time during climate warming

by the National Science Foundation
January 20, 2022

Some marine species can help protect others from climate change by shielding them from heat, according to a new study by Texas A&M University at Galveston and other scientists.

Laura Jurgens and colleagues at the University of Vermont and the University of California, Davis detail the findings in the journal Ecology.

The team studied how tiny crabs and isopods — marine versions of pill bugs — that live on rocky shores react to warming of their habitats. The researchers found that the mussel beds these animals live in protect them from temperature swings and keep them from drying out on hot, sunny days.

“These mussel beds provide a sort of ‘ecological air conditioning system’ in their canopies, just like forests,” Jurgens said. “The results show that conserving habitats formed by plants and animals can help buy time for heat-sensitive species, helping them weather the near-term effects of climate change. But it also means that habitat destruction can make other species more vulnerable to climate warming.”

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