Disturbance of primary producer communities disrupts the thermal limits of the associated aquatic fauna.

J M Booth, F Giomi, Daniele Daffonchio, C D McQuaid, M Fusi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Environmental fluctuation forms a framework of variability within which species have evolved. Environmental fluctuation includes predictability, such as diel cycles of aquatic oxygen fluctuation driven by primary producers. Oxygen availability and fluctuation shape the physiological responses of aquatic animals to warming, so that, in theory, oxygen fluctuation could influence their thermal ecology. We describe annual oxygen variability in agricultural drainage channels and show that disruption of oxygen fluctuation through dredging of plants reduces the thermal tolerance of freshwater animals. We compared the temperature responses of snails, amphipods, leeches and mussels exposed to either natural oxygen fluctuation or constant oxygen in situ under different acclimation periods. Oxygen saturation in channel water ranged from c. 0 % saturation at night to >300 % during the day. Temperature showed normal seasonal variation and was almost synchronous with daily oxygen fluctuation. A dredging event in 2020 dramatically reduced dissolved oxygen variability and the correlation between oxygen and temperature was lost. The tolerance of invertebrates to thermal stress was significantly lower when natural fluctuation in oxygen availability was reduced and decoupled from temperature. This highlights the importance of natural cycles of variability and the need to include finer scale effects, including indirect biological effects, in modelling the ecosystem-level consequences of climate change. Furthermore, restoration and management of primary producers in aquatic habitats could be important to improve the thermal protection of aquatic invertebrates and their resistance to environmental variation imposed by climate change.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162135
JournalThe Science of the total environment
StatePublished - Feb 14 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-02-22
Acknowledged KAUST grant number(s): REI/1/4483-01-01
Acknowledgements: This work is based upon research supported by the National Research Foundation of South Africa (grant no. 64801). D.D. acknowledges the financial support of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) through its baseline research funds and the Circular Carbon Economy initiative (grant no. REI/1/4483-01-01).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal


Dive into the research topics of 'Disturbance of primary producer communities disrupts the thermal limits of the associated aquatic fauna.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this