Maine ocean acidification committee to hold its first meeting on Aug. 1

The Maine Ocean Acidification Committee will hold its first meeting on Aug. 1.

The committee is studying the impacts of ocean acidification on the state’s environment and its economy. It is slated to meet in Walpole.

The Maine state Legislature passed a law this spring establishing the commission to study and address the effects of ocean acidification on ecosystems and shellfisheries. State officials say the commission is the first of its kind in the eastern United States.

State officials say the 16-member council will meet at least four times before completing its work by Dec. 5. It will then report findings to the state legislature’s Marine Resources Committee.

Continue reading ‘Maine ocean acidification committee to hold its first meeting on Aug. 1′

Populations of Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas respond variably to elevated CO2 and predation by Morula marginalba

Ocean acidification is anticipated to decrease calcification and increase dissolution of shelled molluscs. Molluscs with thinner and weaker shells may be more susceptible to predation, but not all studies have measured negative responses of molluscs to elevated pCO2. Recent studies measuring the response of molluscs have found greater variability at the population level than first expected. Here we investigate the impact of acidification on the predatory whelk Morula marginalba and genetically distinct subpopulations of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas. Whelks and eight family lines of C. gigas were separately exposed to ambient (385 ppm) and elevated (1000 ppm) pCO2 for 6 weeks. Following this period, individuals of M. marginalba were transferred into tanks with oysters at ambient and elevated pCO2 for 17 days. The increase in shell height of the oysters was on average 63% less at elevated compared to ambient pCO2. There were differences in shell compression strength, thickness, and mass among family lines of C. gigas, with sometimes an interaction between pCO2 and family line. Against expectations, this study found increased shell strength in the prey and reduced shell strength in the predator at elevated compared to ambient pCO2. After 10 days, the whelks consumed significantly more oysters regardless of whether C. gigas had been exposed to ambient or elevated CO2, but this was not dependent on the family line and the effect was not significant after 17 days. Our study found an increase in predation after exposure of the predator to predicted near-future levels of estuarine pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Populations of Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas respond variably to elevated CO2 and predation by Morula marginalba’

Effects of ocean acidification on population dynamics and community structure of crustose coralline algae

Calcification and growth of crustose coralline algae (CCA) are affected by elevated seawater pCO2 and associated changes in carbonate chemistry. However, the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on population and community-level responses of CCA have barely been investigated. We explored changes in community structure and population dynamics (size structure and reproduction) of CCA in response to OA. Recruited from an experimental flow-through system, CCA settled onto the walls of plastic aquaria and developed under exposure to one of three pCO2 treatments (control [present day, 389 ± 6 ppm CO2], medium [753 ± 11 ppm], and high [1267 ± 19 ppm]). Elevated pCO2 reduced total CCA abundance and affected community structure, in particular the density of the dominant species Pneophyllum sp. and Porolithon onkodes. Meanwhile, the relative abundance of P. onkodes declined from 24% under control CO2 to 8.3% in high CO2 (65% change), while the relative abundance of Pneophyllum sp. remained constant. Population size structure of P. onkodes differed significantly across treatments, with fewer larger individuals under high CO2. In contrast, the population size structure and number of reproductive structures (conceptacles) per crust of Pneophyllum sp. was similar across treatments. The difference in the magnitude of the response of species abundance and population size structure between species may have the potential to induce species composition changes in the future. These results demonstrate that the impacts of OA on key coral reef builders go beyond declines in calcification and growth, and suggest important changes to aspects of population dynamics and community ecology.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on population dynamics and community structure of crustose coralline algae’

Sight and smell: how traditional methods yon’t hold up against ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is invisible to the naked eye. It’s not something we can smell, not something we can feel with our fingers. But in many parts of the world, that’s just how fishermen and shellfish farmers assess the water they work in.

Right now, the methods we have to understand and respond to ocean acidification are expensive, requiring a lot of equipment. For example, oyster farmers in the Pacific Northwest rely on ocean monitoring systems that tell them the condition of the water, high-tech hatcheries that give them a controlled environment in which to rear their oysters, and buffering systems that allow them to neutralize the water coming in and make it suitable for oyster growth.

Continue reading ‘Sight and smell: how traditional methods yon’t hold up against ocean acidification’

Coccolithophores on the north-west European shelf: calcification rates and environmental controls

Coccolithophores are a key functional group in terms of the pelagic production of calcium carbonate (calcite), although their contribution to shelf sea biogeochemistry, and how this relates to environmental conditions, is poorly constrained. Measurements of calcite production (CP) and coccolithophore abundance were made on the north-west European shelf to examine trends in coccolithophore calcification along natural gradients of carbonate chemistry, macronutrient availability and plankton composition. Similar measurements were also made in three bioassay experiments where nutrient (nitrate, phosphate) and pCO2 levels were manipulated. Nanoflagellates (< 10 μm) dominated chlorophyll biomass and primary production (PP) at all but one sampling site, with CP ranging from 0.6 to 9.6 mmol C m−2 d−1. High CP and coccolithophore abundance occurred in a diatom bloom in fully mixed waters off Heligoland, but not in two distinct coccolithophore blooms in the central North Sea and Western English Channel. Coccolithophore abundance and CP showed no correlation with nutrient concentrations or ratios, while significant (p < 0.01) correlations between CP, cell-specific calcification (cell-CF) and irradiance in the water column highlighted how light availability exerts a strong control on pelagic CP. In the experimental bioassays, Emiliania-huxleyi-dominated coccolithophore communities in shelf waters (northern North Sea, Norwegian Trench) showed a strong response in terms of CP to combined nitrate and phosphate addition, mediated by changes in cell-CF and growth rates. In contrast, an offshore diverse coccolithophore community (Bay of Biscay) showed no response to nutrient addition, while light availability or mortality may have been more important in controlling this community. Sharp decreases in pH and a rough halving of calcite saturation states in the bioassay experiments led to decreased CP in the Bay of Biscay and northern North Sea, but not the Norwegian Trench. These decreases in CP were related to slowed growth rates in the bioassays at elevated pCO2 (750 μatm) relative to those in the ambient treatments. The combined results from our study highlight the variable coccolithophore responses to irradiance, nutrients and carbonate chemistry in north-west European shelf waters, which are mediated by changes in growth rates, cell-CF and species composition.

Continue reading ‘Coccolithophores on the north-west European shelf: calcification rates and environmental controls’

Coral records of reef-water pH across the central Great Barrier Reef, Australia: assessing the influence of river runoff on inshore reefs

The boron isotopic (δ11Bcarb) compositions of long-lived Porites coral are used to reconstruct reef-water pH across the central Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and assess the impact of river runoff on inshore reefs. For the period from 1940 to 2009, corals from both inner as well as mid-shelf sites exhibit the same overall decrease in δ11Bcarb of 0.086 ± 0.033‰ per decade, equivalent to a~decline in seawater pH (pHsw) of ~ 0.017 ± 0.007 pH units per decade. This decline is consistent with the long-term effects of ocean acidification based on estimates of CO2 uptake by surface waters due to rising atmospheric levels. We also find that compared to the mid-shelf corals, the δ11Bcarb compositions for inner shelf corals subject to river discharge events, have higher and more variable values and hence higher inferred pHsw values. These higher δ11Bcarb values for inner-shelf corals are particularly evident during wet years, despite river waters having lower pH. The main effect of river discharge on reef-water carbonate chemistry thus appears to be from higher nutrients driving increased phytoplankton productivity, resulting in the drawdown of pCO2 and increase in pHsw. Increased primary production therefore has the potential to counter the more transient effects of low pH river water (pHrw) discharged into near-shore environments. Importantly however, inshore reefs also show a consistent pattern of sharply declining coral growth that coincides with periods of high river discharge. This occurs despite these reefs having higher pHsw values and hence higher seawater aragonite saturation states, demonstrating the over-riding importance of local reef-water quality on coral reef health.

Continue reading ‘Coral records of reef-water pH across the central Great Barrier Reef, Australia: assessing the influence of river runoff on inshore reefs’

West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel

A Shared Challenge and Opportunity

Ocean acidification and hypoxia, two phenomena often coupled due to biological and oceanographic processes, are leading to concerns among government agencies and the public along the West Coast about the potential threats to marine ecosystems. These issues are shared challenges among the region and require cooperation across academic and political landscapes.

At the nexus of this challenge is the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel, an interdisciplinary collaboration of 20 esteemed scientists representing California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. The Panel’s core goal is to collaborate with decision makers across the state, regional and federal levels on these complex issues. The Panel established a series of working groups to summarize knowledge for action on key themes identified by decision makers.

Continue reading ‘West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel’

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