Interactive effects of temperature and habitat complexity on freshwater communities

Scrine, Jennifer; Jochum, Malte; Ólafsson, Jón S.; O'Gorman, Eoin J. (2017). Interactive effects of temperature and habitat complexity on freshwater communities. Ecology and evolution, 7(22), pp. 9333-9346. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 10.1002/ece3.3412

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Warming can lead to increased growth of plants or algae at the base of the food web, which may increase the overall complexity of habitat available for other organisms. Temperature and habitat complexity have both been shown to alter the structure and functioning of communities, but they may also have interactive effects, for example, if the shade provided by additional habitat negates the positive effect of temperature on understory plant or algal growth. This study explored the interactive effects of these two major environmental factors in a manipulative field experiment, by assessing changes in ecosystem functioning (primary production and decomposition) and community structure in the presence and absence of artificial plants along a natural stream temperature gradient of 5–18°C. There was no effect of temperature or habitat complexity on benthic primary production, but epiphytic production increased with temperature in the more complex habitat. Cellulose decomposition rate increased with temperature, but was unaffected by habitat complexity. Macroinvertebrate communities were less similar to each other as temperature increased, while habitat complexity only altered community composition in the coldest streams. There was also an overall increase in macroinvertebrate abundance, body mass, and biomass in the warmest streams, driven by increasing dominance of snails and blackfly larvae. Presence of habitat complexity, however, dampened the strength of this temperature effect on the abundance of macroinvertebrates in the benthos. The interactive effects that were observed suggest that habitat complexity can modify the effects of temperature on important ecosystem functions and community structure, which may alter energy flow through the food web. Given that warming is likely to increase habitat complexity, particularly at higher latitudes, more studies should investigate these two major environmental factors in combination to improve our ability to predict the impacts of future global change.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Jochum, Malte


500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)




John Wiley & Sons, Inc.




Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

07 Nov 2017 08:53

Last Modified:

22 Nov 2017 01:31

Publisher DOI:





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