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  1. Abstract

    Marine habitat‐forming species often play critical roles on rocky shores by ameliorating stressful conditions for associated organisms. Such ecosystem engineers provide structure and shelter, for example, by creating refuges from thermal and desiccation stresses at low tide. Less explored is the potential for habitat formers to alter interstitial seawater chemistry during their submergence. Here, we quantify the capacity for dense assemblages of the California mussel,Mytilus californianus, to change seawater chemistry (dissolved O2, pH, and total alkalinity) within the interiors of mussel beds at high tide via respiration and calcification. We established a living mussel bed within a laboratory flow tank and measured vertical pH and oxygen gradients within and above the mussel bed over a range of water velocities. We documented decreases of up to 0.1 pH and 25μmol O2kg−1internal to the bed, along with declines of 100μmol kg−1in alkalinity, when external flows were < 0.05 m s−1. Although California mussels often live in habitats subjected to much faster velocities, sizeable populations also inhabit bays and estuaries where such moderate flow speeds can occur > 95% of the time. Reductions in pH and O2inside mussel beds may negatively impact resident organisms and exacerbate parallel human‐induced perturbations to ocean chemistry while potentially selecting for improved tolerance to altered chemistry conditions.

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  2. Abstract

    Latitudinal and elevational temperature gradients (LTGandETG) play central roles in biogeographical theory, underpinning predictions of large‐scale patterns in organismal thermal stress, species' ranges and distributional responses to climate change. Yet an enormous fraction of Earth's taxa live exclusively in habitats where foundation species modify temperatures. We examine little‐explored implications of this widespread trend using a classic model system for understanding heat stresses – rocky intertidal shores. Through integrated field measurements and laboratory trials, we demonstrate that thermal buffering by centimetre‐thick mussel and seaweed beds eliminates differences in stress‐inducing high temperatures and associated mortality risk that would otherwise arise over 14° of latitude and ~ 1 m of shore elevation. These results reveal the extent to which physical effects of habitat‐formers can overwhelm broad‐scale thermal trends, suggesting a need to re‐evaluate climate change predictions for many species. Notably, inhabitant populations may exhibit deceptive resilience to warming until refuge‐forming taxa become imperiled.

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