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Centre for

Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology

From the shoreline to the deep ocean, tackling issues from pure ecology
and physiology to aquaculture, marine spatial planning and conservation.

 Clara's Project: Vulnerability of Modiolus reefs to climate change: from mechanisms to management strategies

Increases in global atmospheric and seawater CO2 concentrations are linked to physical changes in marine environments including increases in temperature, decreases in salinity and pH, and increases in occurrence of hypoxic events. Key structural or functional species such as the bivalve Modiolus modiolus are likely to be affected by such changes causing a decline in their extent and distribution, and reducing their value as ecosystem engineers, providing rich habitats for marine life.
Previous research has demonstrated that bivalves are poor at compensating for various physiological changes under climate change conditions though little research exists on specific effects to M. modiolus. While recent work has shown that some species may possess the ability to acclimate to changing environmental conditions over time (phenotypic plasticity and standing genetic variation) and hence have the potential to increase tolerances to environmental stress, it remains relatively unclear whether Modiolus can compensate.

In order to identify and characterise populations of M. modiolus most likely to be vulnerable to climate change, this project will determine the current energetic demands and stress response of M. modiolus populations in the field to include those populations at the extreme southern limit of the range and northward over a latitudinal gradient. The project will also characterise the acclimatory ability and stress response of individuals from given populations to abiotic changes under controlled conditions in the laboratory. Such outcomes will then inform management strategies in order to conserve these important marine ecosystems.

Supervisors:
Dr. Joanne Porter, CMBB, Heriot-Watt University
Dr. Bill Sanderson, CMBB, Heriot-Watt University

Funders:
Heriot-Watt University (James Watt Studentship)

Partner:
Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, Isle of Man Government