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Combining heat-transfer and energy budget models to predict local and geographic patterns of mortality in Mediterranean intertidal mussels

  • Autori: Sarà, G; Kearney, M; Helmuth, B.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2011
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista (Articolo in rivista)
  • OA Link:


Recent studies have emphasised that organisms can experience physiological stress well within their geographic range limits. Developing methods for mechanistically predicting the presence, absence and physiological performance of organisms is therefore important because of the ongoing effects of climate change. In this study, we merged a biophysical–ecological (BE) model that estimates the aquatic (high tide) and aerial (low tide) body temperatures of Mytilus galloprovincialis with a Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) model to predict growth, reproduction and mortality of this Mediterranean mussel in both intertidal and subtidal environments. Using weather and chlorophyll-a data from three Mediterranean sites along the Italian coasts, we show that predictions of sublethal and lethal (acute) stress can potentially explain the observed distribution (both presence and absence) of mussels in the intertidal and subtidal zones, and the maximum size of animals in the subtidal zones. Importantly, our results suggest that different mechanisms limit the intertidal distribution of mussels, and that these mechanisms do not follow a simple latitudinal gradient. At the northernmost site (Palermo), M. galloprovincialis appears to be excluded from the intertidal zone due to persistent exposure to lethal aerial temperatures, whereas at the southernmost sites (Porto Empedocle and Lampedusa) sublethal stress is the most important driver of mussel intertidal distribution. Our predictions provide a set of hypotheses for future work on the role of climate change in limiting intertidal distribution of mussels in the Mediterranean.