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Environmental drivers modulating the occurrence and ecosystem functioning of mussel beds in the rocky intertidal

Grant number: 21/11250-4
Support Opportunities:Regular Research Grants
Duration: May 01, 2022 - April 30, 2024
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology - Ecosystems Ecology
Principal Investigator:Augusto Alberto Valero Flores
Grantee:Augusto Alberto Valero Flores
Host Institution: Centro de Biologia Marinha (CEBIMAR). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Sebastião , SP, Brazil
Associated researchers:Aurea Maria Ciotti


Mussel beds are paramount for the ecological equilibrium of rocky shores lying at the interface of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. One key ecosystem function of mussel beds is the ecological facilitation of a diversified invertebrate fauna, including the early recruitment of species that contribute to the ecological equilibrium of the whole ecosystem. However, heat waves may collapse such a function, or even trigger mass mortality events on mussel populations themselves, completely destabilizing the biogenic habitat. In this project, we will make use of extreme environmental variability along an 80-km coastline to understand the mechanisms generating gradients of thermal stress and potential desiccation, and how the latter restrain the formation of mussel beds and their facilitating capacity. As deliverables of this proposal, we expect to (i) identify the environmental conditions required for the stability of mussel beds, (ii) predict the extent of habitat loss to be caused by climate change, and (iii) assess the resistance of facilitated invertebrate assemblages along stress gradients. (AU)

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