Oxygen- and capacity-limitation of thermal tolerance: a matrix for integrating climate-related stressor effects in marine ecosystems

The Journal of Experimental Biology
H O Pörtner

Abstract

The concept of oxygen- and capacity-dependent thermal tolerance in aquatic ectotherms has successfully explained climate-induced effects of rising temperatures on species abundance in the field. Oxygen supply to tissues and the resulting aerobic performance characters thus form a primary link between organismal fitness and its role and functioning at the ecosystem level. The thermal window of performance in water breathers matches their window of aerobic scope. Loss of performance reflects the earliest level of thermal stress, caused by hypoxaemia and the progressive mismatch of oxygen supply and demand at the borders of the thermal envelope. Oxygen deficiency elicits the transition to passive tolerance and associated systemic and cellular stress signals like hormonal responses or oxidative stress as well as the use of protection mechanisms like heat shock proteins at thermal extremes. Thermal acclimatization between seasons or adaptation to a climate regime involves shifting thermal windows and adjusting window widths. The need to specialize on a limited temperature range results from temperature-dependent trade-offs at several hierarchical levels, from molecular structure to whole-organism functioning, and may also support ma...Continue Reading

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