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Variability in primary producers' responses to environmental change may buffer higher trophic levels against shifts in basal resource composition. Then again, in instances where there is a lack of functional redundancy because consumers rely on a few species to meet their energetic requirements at specific times of the year, altered community production dynamics may significantly impact food web resilience. In high-latitude kelp forests, a complementary annual phenology of seaweed production supports coastal marine consumers' metabolic needs across large seasonal variations in their environment. Yet, marine consumers in these systems may face significant metabolic stress under the pronounced low pH conditions expected in future winters, particularly if they lack the resources to support their increased energetic demands. In this study, we investigate how the growth and nutritional value of three dominant, coexisting macroalgal species found in subpolar kelp forests will respond to ocean acidification and warming in future winter and summer seasons. We find that the three kelps Macrocystis pyrifera, Hedophyllum nigripes, and Neoagarum fimbriatum differ in their vulnerability to future environmental conditions, and that the seasonal environmental context of nutrient and light availability shapes these responses. Our results suggest that poleward fringe populations of M. pyrifera may be relatively resilient to anticipated ocean warming and acidification. In contrast, ocean warming conditions caused a decrease in the biomass and nutritional quality of both understory kelps. Considering the unique production phenology of H. nigripes, we emphasize that negative impacts on this species in future winters may be of consequence to consumer energetics in this system. This work highlights how interspecific variation in autotrophs' responses to global change can disrupt the diversity and phenological structure of energy supply available to higher trophic levels.


© 2024 The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Data Availability

Article states: "The data that support the findings of this study are openly available from the Biological & Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO) at, project number 756735, datasets titled "Kelp Growth," "Carbon and Nitrogen," and "Feeding Assays."

Original Publication Citation

Bell, L. E., Westphal, L., O'Brien, E., Toy, J. A., Damron, H., & Kroeker, Kristy J. (2024). Season influences interspecific responses of canopy-forming kelps to future warming and acidification at high latitude. Ecosphere, 15(1): e4745.


0000-0002-2126-7826 (Toy)


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