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Stressors in the Marine EnvironmentPhysiological and ecological responses; societal implications$
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Martin Solan and Nia Whiteley

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198718826

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198718826.001.0001

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Effects of changing salinity on the ecology of the marine environment

Effects of changing salinity on the ecology of the marine environment

(p.161) Chapter 9 Effects of changing salinity on the ecology of the marine environment
Stressors in the Marine Environment

Katie Smyth

Mike Elliott

Oxford University Press

Changing salinity is a master factor in the distribution of both marine and estuarine species and is limiting to freshwater organisms; hence salinity is fundamental in modifying aquatic ecosystem assemblage structure and functioning. The effects of changing salinity on the ecology of different habitats is driven ultimately by the underlying physiology and tolerances of organisms and their ability to cope with salinity fluctuations on both long and short time scales. Estuarine species are often euryhaline, adapted to tolerate fluctuating salinity, whereas many marine species are stenohaline and limited by their narrow range of physiological tolerance. For estuarine species, lowered salinities may be a subsidy, i.e. benefiting the organisms by reducing competition, whereas for non-tolerant species they are a stressor. Salinities at the margins or outside the tolerance range of particular species will prevent their occurrence, change their behaviour, or limit reproduction and germination, reducing their fitness for survival in that environment. Salinity can act synergistically or antagonistically with other environmental stressors, producing a dynamic and changing environment. Anthropogenic activities and effluents can modify local salinity regimes and their effects depend on the assimilative capacity of both the area and the species. This chapter discusses such effects of changing salinity at the species, community, and ecosystem levels of biological organization. It also explores salinity change as an environmental perturbation in terms of various saline ecosystems worldwide, from ice melt/formation in polar regions through to man-made salt pans and desalination plants.

Keywords:   salinity, physiological tolerance, species, community, ecosystem, competition, euryhaline, stenohaline

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