Climate change stimulates the growth of the intertidal macroalgae Ascophyllum nodosum near the northern distribution limit.

Research paper by Núria N Marbà, Dorte D Krause-Jensen, Birgit B Olesen, Peter B PB Christensen, Anissa A Merzouk, Joao J Rodrigues, Susse S Wegeberg, Robert T RT Wilce

Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 25 Jan '17Published in: Ambio


Ascophyllum nodosum is a foundation macroalgae of the intertidal zone that distributes across latitude 41.3-69.7°N. We tested the hypothesis that growth of A. nodosum near the northern distribution edge increases with warming. We retrospectively quantified the growth of eight A. nodosum populations at West Greenland and North Norway (from 64°N to 69°N). For seven populations, we measured growth rates since 1997-2002 and for one of them we extended the time series back to 1956 using published estimates. Individuals at northern populations elongated between 2.0 and 9.1 cm year(-1) and this variability correlated with temperature and annual ice-free days. A spatial comparison of A. nodosum growth across the species distribution range showed that Northern (and coldest) populations grew at the slowest rates. Our results demonstrate that arctic climate change enhances the growth of A. nodosum populations and suggest that their productivity may increase in response to projected global warming.