The toughest animals of the Earth versus global warming : Effects of long‐term experimental warming on tardigrade community structure of a temperate deciduous forest
Vecchi, M., Kossi, A. L., Dunn, R. R., Nichols, L. M., Penick, C. A., Sanders, N. J., Rebecchi, L., & Guidetti, R. (2021). The toughest animals of the Earth versus global warming : Effects of long‐term experimental warming on tardigrade community structure of a temperate deciduous forest. Ecology and Evolution, 11(14), 9856-9863. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7816
Published inEcology and Evolution
© 2021 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Understanding how different taxa respond to global warming is essential for predicting future changes and elaborating strategies to buffer them. Tardigrades are well known for their ability to survive environmental stressors, such as drying and freezing, by undergoing cryptobiosis and rapidly recovering their metabolic function after stressors cease. Determining the extent to which animals that undergo cryptobiosis are affected by environmental warming will help to understand the real magnitude climate change will have on these organisms. Here, we report on the responses of tardigrades within a five-year-long, field-based artificial warming experiment, which consisted of 12 open-top chambers heated to simulate the projected effects of global warming (ranging from 0 to 5.5°C above ambient temperature) in a temperate deciduous forest of North Carolina (USA). To elucidate the effects of warming on the tardigrade community inhabiting the soil litter, three community diversity indices (abundance, species richness, and Shannon diversity) and the abundance of the three most abundant species (Diphascon pingue, Adropion scoticum, and Mesobiotus sp.) were determined. Their relationships with air temperature, soil moisture, and the interaction between air temperature and soil moisture were tested using Bayesian generalized linear mixed models. Despite observed negative effects of warming on other ground invertebrates in previous studies at this site, long-term warming did not affect the abundance, richness, or diversity of tardigrades in this experiment. These results are in line with previous experimental studies, indicating that tardigrades may not be directly affected by ongoing global warming, possibly due to their thermotolerance and cryptobiotic abilities to avoid negative effects of stressful temperatures, and the buffering effect on temperature of the soil litter substrate. ...
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Additional information about fundingThis work was supported by the National Science Foundation Dimensions of Biodiversity [grant number 1136703]; the United States Department of Energy [grant number DEFG02-08ER64510]; the Department of the Interior's Southeast Climate Science Center, under cooperative agreement numbers G13AC00405; and the departmental FAR grant of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy.
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