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Ecological Responses to Climate Change: Using the Common Ragworm (Hediste diversicolor) as an Indicator for Benthic Ecosystems

James, Jennifer


Jennifer James


Dan Parsons


Climate change is projected to have a negative impact on biodiversity over the next century. Similar drivers of change have been observed in the geological past and were also associated with loss of species, particularly in the marine environment. This research uses the common ragworm Hediste diversicolor as a model organism to investigate the physiological and ecological impacts of changing temperature and pH on hardy, benthic species. H. diversicolor is a keystone species in estuarine habitats in Europe and North America and their bioturbating activities likely have a crucial effect on ecosystem functioning. Here we demonstrate that future pH and temperature conditions will impact the chemosensory abilities of H. diversicolor as well as the production of mucus and oxygen-sediment penetration. These results indicate that projected future climate change could have population level impacts on H. diversicolor. Additionally, the changes in mucus production and oxygen penetration identified here may alter the rate of nutrient cycling and sediment cohesion with potential ecosystem level effects. The complex behavioural, ecological and physiological impacts of pH and temperature change identified in this research can also contribute to the understanding of kill mechanisms that led to the extreme mass extinctions observed in the geological past.


James, J. (2022). Ecological Responses to Climate Change: Using the Common Ragworm (Hediste diversicolor) as an Indicator for Benthic Ecosystems. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Feb 7, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 7, 2023
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Geography, Geology and Environment
Award Date 2022-05


Thesis (6.4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2022 Jennifer Mary James. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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