Temperature-buffering by oyster habitat provides temporal stability for rocky shore communities

Dominic McAfee*, Melanie J. Bishop, Gray A. Williams

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Intertidal rocky shores are considered among the most thermally stressful marine ecosystems, where many species live close to their upper thermal limit and depend on access to cool microclimates to persist through heat events. In such environments, the provision of cool microclimates by habitat-forming species enables persistence of associated species during high temperature events. We assessed whether, by maintaining cool microclimates through heat events, habitat formed by rock oysters (Saccostrea cucullata) provides temporal stability to associated invertebrate communities over periods of extreme temperatures. On three tropical rocky shores of Hong Kong, which experiences a monsoonal climate, we compared changes in microclimates and invertebrate communities associated with oyster and bare rock habitats between the cool and hot seasons. Oyster habitats were, across both seasons, consistently characterised by lower maximum temperatures and greater thermal stability than bare rock habitats. Invertebrate communities in the bare rock habitat were less diverse and abundant in the hot than the cool season, but communities in the cooler habitats provided by oysters did not display temporal change. These results demonstrate that microclimates formed by oysters provide temporal stability to associated communities across periods of temperature change and are key determinants of species distributions in thermally stressful environments. The conservation and restoration of oyster habitats may, therefore, build resilience in associated ecological communities subject to ongoing environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105536
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Early online date23 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Climate refugia
  • Ecosystem engineering
  • Intertidal
  • Species interactions
  • Stress amelioration


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