Our changing ocean: the chemistry, the questions, and the students answering them

Beyond the meadows of wildflowers and tree-covered mountains lies the vast blue ocean. For a lucky few, the ocean is in their backyard. For others, it’s a wonder they’ve only seen on television or in books. The ocean covers more than 70% of the planet, regulates Earth’s climate, and produces most of the oxygen we breathe. And it’s where life began roughly 3 billion years ago. A lot has changed since.

Continue reading ‘Our changing ocean: the chemistry, the questions, and the students answering them’

Étude en mésocosmes des impacts de l’acidification et du réchauffement sur la composition élémentaire de la biomasse planctonique et le cycle de l’azote dans l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent (in French)

Les changements globaux ont le potentiel d’altérer les cycles biogéochimiques entraînant des répercussions pour tout le réseau alimentaire. Puisque l’azote est généralement l’élément limitant en milieu estuarien, une altération de son cycle pourrait influencer l’ampleur et le type de production primaire ainsi que la composition de la communauté phytoplanctonique qui l’effectue. Il en va de même pour la composition de la matière organique qui peut affecter la valeur nutritive des algues pour les consommateurs de même que l’efficacité de la pompe biologique. Actuellement, aucune étude portant sur les impacts combinés de l’acidification et du réchauffement des eaux de l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent n’a été réalisée. L’objectif de ce projet de maîtrise fut d’évaluer expérimentalement, à l’aide de mésocosme, les impacts cumulés que ces changements pourraient avoir sur la dynamique des nutriments et de l’azote en particulier ainsi que sur la composition élémentaire de la matière organique. Une combinaison factorielle de six pH (7,2; 7,4; 7,6; 7,8; 8,0 et un pH sans contrôle) et de deux températures (10 et 15°C) fut employée. Les résultats de l’expérience suggèrent que les organismes responsables des processus à l’étude sont tolérants à une diminution considérable du pH. Ceux-ci furent toutefois affectés par la hausse de température, qui entraîna une diminution du ratio N:P de consommation des nutriments, accéléra le développement de la floraison phytoplanctonique et l’épuisement des nutriments, puis mena à un changement taxonomique en fin d’expérience. Ce changement est possiblement responsable des différences observées dans la composition de la matière organique particulaire (POM) lors du déclin de la floraison planctonique (diminution des ratios POC:PON, POC:POP,POC:BSi et hausse du ratio BSi:PON). Ces résultats suggèrent que pour l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent, le réchauffement pourrait entraîner des changements stœchiométriques au sein de la POM avec des conséquences probables pour les niveaux trophiques supérieurs et la pompe biologique.

Continue reading ‘Étude en mésocosmes des impacts de l’acidification et du réchauffement sur la composition élémentaire de la biomasse planctonique et le cycle de l’azote dans l’estuaire maritime du Saint-Laurent (in French)’

The influence of seawater carbonate chemistry, mineralogy, and diagenesis on calcium isotope variations in Lower-Middle Triassic carbonate rocks

The geological calcium cycle is linked to the geological carbon cycle through the weathering and burial of carbonate rocks. As a result, calcium (Ca) isotope ratios (44Ca/40Ca, expressed as δ44/40Ca) can help to constrain ancient carbon cycle dynamics if Ca cycle behavior can be reconstructed. However, the δ44/40Ca of carbonate rocks is influenced not only by the δ44/40Ca of seawater but also by diagenetic processes and fractionation associated with carbonate precipitation. In this study, we investigate the dominant controls on carbonate δ44/40Ca in Upper Permian to Middle Triassic limestones (ca. 253 to 244 Ma) from south China and Turkey. This time interval is ideal for assessing controls on Ca isotope ratios in carbonate rocks because fluctuations in seawater δ44/40Ca may be expected based on several large carbon isotope (δ13C) excursions ranging from − 2 to + 8‰. Parallel negative δ13C and δ44/40Ca excursions were previously identified across the end-Permian extinction horizon. Here, we find a second negative excursion in δ44/40Ca of ~ 0.2‰ within Lower Triassic strata in both south China and Turkey; however, this excursion is not synchronous between regions and thus cannot be interpreted to reflect secular change in the δ44/40Ca of global seawater. Additionally, δ44/40Ca values from Turkey are consistently 0.3‰ lower than contemporaneous samples from south China, providing further support for local or regional influences. By measuring δ44/40Ca and Sr concentrations ([Sr]) in two stratigraphic sections located at opposite margins of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean, we can determine whether the data represent global conditions (e.g., secular variations in the δ44/40Ca of seawater) versus local controls (e.g., original mineralogy or diagenetic alteration). The [Sr] and δ44/40Ca data from this study are best described statistically by a log-linear correlation that also exists in many previously published datasets of various geological ages. Using a model of early marine diagenetic water-rock interaction, we illustrate that this general correlation can be explained by the chemical evolution of bulk carbonate sediment samples with different initial mineralogical compositions that subsequently underwent recrystallization. Although early diagenetic resetting and carbonate mineralogy strongly influence the carbonate δ44/40Ca values, the relationship between [Sr] and δ44/40Ca holds potential for reconstructing first-order secular changes in seawater δ44/40Ca composition.

Continue reading ‘The influence of seawater carbonate chemistry, mineralogy, and diagenesis on calcium isotope variations in Lower-Middle Triassic carbonate rocks’

Trans‐life cycle acclimation to experimental ocean acidification affects gastric pH homeostasis and larval recruitment in the sea star Asterias rubens

Experimental simulation of near‐future ocean acidification (OA) has been demonstrated to affect growth and development of echinoderm larval stages through energy allocation towards ion and pH compensatory processes. To date, it remains largely unknown how major pH regulatory systems and their energetics are affected by trans‐generational exposure to near‐future acidification levels.

Here we used the common sea star Asterias rubens in a reciprocal transplant experiment comprising different combinations of OA scenarios, in order to study trans‐generational plasticity using morphological and physiological endpoints.

Acclimation of adults to pHT 7.2 (pCO2 3500μatm) led to reductions in feeding rates, gonad weight, and fecundity. No effects were evident at moderate acidification levels (pHT 7.4; pCO2 2000μatm). Parental pre‐acclimation to pHT 7.2 for 85 days reduced developmental rates even when larvae were raised under moderate and high pH conditions, whereas pre‐acclimation to pHT 7.4 did not alter offspring performance. Microelectrode measurements and pharmacological inhibitor studies carried out on larval stages demonstrated that maintenance of alkaline gastric pH represents a substantial energy sink under acidified conditions that may contribute up to 30% to the total energy budget.

Parental pre‐acclimation to acidification levels that are beyond the pH that is encountered by this population in its natural habitat (e.g. pHT 7.2) negatively affected larval size and development, potentially through reduced energy transfer. Maintenance of alkaline gastric pH and reductions in maternal energy reserves probably constitute the main factors for a reduced juvenile recruitment of this marine keystone species under simulated OA.

Continue reading ‘Trans‐life cycle acclimation to experimental ocean acidification affects gastric pH homeostasis and larval recruitment in the sea star Asterias rubens’

Treated wastewater changes the export of dissolved inorganic carbon and its isotopic composition and leads to acidification in coastal oceans

Human-induced changes to carbon fluxes across the land-ocean interface can influence the global carbon cycle, yet the impacts of rapid urbanization and establishment of wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) on coastal ocean carbon cycles are poorly known. This is unacceptable as at present ~64% of global municipal wastewater is treated before discharge. Here, we report surface water dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and sedimentary organic carbon concentrations and their isotopic compositions in the rapidly urbanized Jiaozhou Bay in northeast China as well as carbonate parameters in effluents of three large WWTPs around the bay. Using DIC, δ13CDIC and total alkalinity (TA) data and a tracer model, we determine the contributions to DIC from wastewater DIC input, net community production, calcium carbonate precipitation and CO2 outgassing. Our study shows that high-DIC and low-pH wastewater effluent represents an important source of DIC and acidification in coastal waters. In contrast to the traditional view of anthropogenic organic carbon export and degradation, we suggest that with the increase of wastewater discharge and treatment rates, wastewater DIC input may play an increasingly more important role in the coastal ocean carbon cycle.

Continue reading ‘Treated wastewater changes the export of dissolved inorganic carbon and its isotopic composition and leads to acidification in coastal oceans’

Carbonate system parameters of an algal-dominated reef along West Maui (update)

Constraining coral reef metabolism and carbon chemistry dynamics are fundamental for understanding and predicting reef vulnerability to rising coastal CO2 concentrations and decreasing seawater pH. However, few studies exist along reefs occupying densely inhabited shorelines with known input from land-based sources of pollution. The shallow coral reefs off Kahekili, West Maui, are exposed to nutrient-enriched, low-pH submarine groundwater discharge (SGD) and are particularly vulnerable to the compounding stressors from land-based sources of pollution and lower seawater pH. To constrain the carbonate chemistry system, nutrients and carbonate chemistry were measured along the Kahekili reef flat every 4 h over a 6-day sampling period in March 2016. Abiotic process – primarily SGD fluxes – controlled the carbonate chemistry adjacent to the primary SGD vent site, with nutrient-laden freshwater decreasing pH levels and favoring undersaturated aragonite saturation (Ωarag) conditions. In contrast, diurnal variability in the carbonate chemistry at other sites along the reef flat was driven by reef community metabolism. Superimposed on the diurnal signal was a transition during the second sampling period to a surplus of total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) compared to ocean endmember TA and DIC measurements. A shift from positive net community production and positive net community calcification to negative net community production and negative net community calcification was identified. This transition occurred during a period of increased SGD-driven nutrient loading, lower wave height, and reduced current speeds. This detailed study of carbon chemistry dynamics highlights the need to incorporate local effects of nearshore oceanographic processes into predictions of coral reef vulnerability and resilience.

Continue reading ‘Carbonate system parameters of an algal-dominated reef along West Maui (update)’

Ocean acidification changes the structure of an Antarctic coastal protistan community (update)

Antarctic near-shore waters are amongst the most sensitive in the world to ocean acidification. Microbes occupying these waters are critical drivers of ecosystem productivity, elemental cycling and ocean biogeochemistry, yet little is known about their sensitivity to ocean acidification. A six-level, dose–response experiment was conducted using 650 L incubation tanks (minicosms) adjusted to a gradient in fugacity of carbon dioxide (fCO2) from 343 to 1641 µatm. The six minicosms were filled with near-shore water from Prydz Bay, East Antarctica, and the protistan composition and abundance was determined by microscopy during 18 days of incubation. No CO2-related change in the protistan community composition was observed during the initial 8 day acclimation period under low light. Thereafter, the response of both autotrophic and heterotrophic protists to fCO2 was species-specific. The response of diatoms was mainly cell size related; microplanktonic diatoms ( >  20 µm) increased in abundance with low to moderate fCO2 (343–634 µatm) but decreased at fCO2  ≥  953 µatm. Similarly, the abundance of Phaeocystis antarctica increased with increasing fCO2 peaking at 634 µatm. Above this threshold the abundance of micro-sized diatoms and P. antarctica fell dramatically, and nanoplanktonic diatoms ( ≤  20 µm) dominated, therefore culminating in a significant change in the protistan community composition. Comparisons of these results with previous experiments conducted at this site show that the fCO2 thresholds are similar, despite seasonal and interannual differences in the physical and biotic environment. This suggests that near-shore microbial communities are likely to change significantly near the end of this century if anthropogenic CO2 release continues unabated, with profound ramifications for near-shore Antarctic ecosystem food webs and biogeochemical cycling.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification changes the structure of an Antarctic coastal protistan community (update)’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book