Ocean warming and acidification alter the behavioral response to flow of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus

Ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA) are intensively investigated as they pose major threats to marine organism. However, little effort is dedicated to another collateral climate change stressor, the increased frequency, and intensity of storm events, here referred to as intensified hydrodynamics. A 2‐month experiment was performed to identify how OW and OA (temperature: 21°C; pHT: 7.7, 7.4; control: 17°C‐pHT7.9) affect the resistance to hydrodynamics in the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus using an integrative approach that includes physiology, biomechanics, and behavior. Biomechanics was studied under both no‐flow condition at the tube foot (TF) scale and flow condition at the individual scale. For the former, TF disk adhesive properties (attachment strength, tenacity) and TF stem mechanical properties (breaking force, extensibility, tensile strength, stiffness, toughness) were evaluated. For the latter, resistance to flow was addressed as the flow velocity at which individuals detached. Under near‐ and far‐future OW and OA, individuals fully balanced their acid‐base status, but skeletal growth was halved. TF adhesive properties were not affected by treatments. Compared to the control, mechanical properties were in general improved under pHT7.7 while in the extreme treatment (21°C‐pHT7.4) breaking force was diminished. Three behavioral strategies were implemented by sea urchins and acted together to cope with flow: improving TF attachment, streamlining, and escaping. Behavioral responses varied according to treatment and flow velocity. For instance, individuals at 21°C‐pHT7.4 increased the density of attached TF at slow flows or controlled TF detachment at fast flows to compensate for weakened TF mechanical properties. They also showed an absence of streamlining favoring an escaping behavior as they ventured in a riskier faster movement at slow flows. At faster flows, the effects of OW and OA were detrimental causing earlier dislodgment. These plastic behaviors reflect a potential scope for acclimation in the field, where this species already experiences diel temperature and pH fluctuations.

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Climate change, explained: what is ocean acidification? (video)

Ocean acidification ― which happens as the world’s oceans take in more carbon dioxide from the air ― will exacerbate the effects of coral bleaching because corals are less resilient.

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Ocean acidification: synergistic inhibitory effects of protons and heavy metals on 45Ca uptake by lobster branchiostegite membrane vesicles

Previous work with isolated outer membrane vesicles of lobster branchiostegite epithelial cells has shown that 45Ca2+ uptake by these structures is significantly (p < 0.02) reduced by an incremental decrease in saline pH (increased proton concentration) and that this decrease is due to competitive inhibition between carrier-mediated transport of 45Ca2+ and hydrogen ions. The present paper extends these previous findings and describes the combined effects of pH and cationic heavy metals on branchiostegite uptake of 45Ca2+. Partially purified membrane vesicles of branchiostegite cells were produced by a homogenization/centrifugation method and were loaded with mannitol at pH 7.0. The time course of 1 mM 45Ca2+ uptake in a mannitol medium at pH 8.5 containing 100 µM verapamil (Ca2+ channel blocker) was hyperbolic and approached equilibrium at 30 min. This uptake was either significantly reduced (p < 0.05) by the addition of 5 µM Zn2+ or essentially abolished with the addition of 5 µM Cu2+. Increasing zinc concentrations (5–500 µM) reduced 1 mM 45Ca2+ uptake at pH 8.5 or 7.5 in a hyperbolic fashion with the remaining non-inhibited uptake due to apparent non-specific binding. Uptake of 1 mM 45Ca2+ at pH 8.5, 7.5, 7.5 + Zn2+, and 7.5 + Zn2+ + Cu2+ + Cd2+ in the presence of 100 µM verapamil displayed a stepwise reduction of 45Ca2+ uptake with the addition of each treatment until only non-specific isotope binding occurred with all cation inhibitors. 45Ca2+ influxes (15 s uptakes; 0.25–5.0 mM calcium + 100 µM verapamil) in the presence and absence of 10 µM Zn2+ were both hyperbolic functions of calcium concentration. The curve with Zn2+ displayed a transport Km twice that of the control (p < 0.05), while inhibitor and control curve Jmax values were not significantly different (p > 0.05), suggesting competitive inhibition between 45Ca2+ and Zn2+ influxes. Analysis of the relative inhibitory effects of increased proton or heavy metal interaction with 45Ca2+ uptake suggests that divalent metals may reduce the calcium transport about twice as much as a drop in pH, but together, they appear to abolish carrier-mediated transport.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification: synergistic inhibitory effects of protons and heavy metals on 45Ca uptake by lobster branchiostegite membrane vesicles’

Toby Schwoerer presenting on ocean acidification

Bob Foy

Bob Foy with crab

Ocean acidification is expected to impact Alaska’s marine species and the $5.8 billion seafood industry. Higher acidity water affects the ability of shell-building organisms, like crabs, to develop and maintain their shells and may also affect the behavior of some fish species. Alaska is predisposed to ocean acidification due to its colder water temperature, making it likely that we will feel the effects sooner and more intensely than other regions. Ocean acidification is caused when carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean, lowering the water’s pH and making it more acidic. As humans emit more carbon dioxide, this process accelerates.

Continue reading ‘Toby Schwoerer presenting on ocean acidification’

Ocean acidification during prefertilization chemical communication affects sperm success

Ocean acidification (OA) poses a major threat to marine organisms, particularly during reproduction when externally shed gametes are vulnerable to changes in seawater pH. Accordingly, several studies on OA have focused on how changes in seawater pH influence sperm behavior and/or rates of in vitro fertilization. By contrast, few studies have examined how pH influences prefertilization gamete interactions, which are crucial during natural spawning events in most externally fertilizing taxa. One mechanism of gamete interaction that forms an important component of fertilization in most taxa is communication between sperm and egg‐derived chemicals. These chemical signals, along with the physiological responses in sperm they elicit, are likely to be highly sensitive to changes in seawater chemistry. In this study, we experimentally tested this possibility using the blue mussel, Mytilus galloprovincialis, a species in which females have been shown to use egg‐derived chemicals to promote the success of sperm from genetically compatible males. We conducted trials in which sperm were allowed to swim in gradients of egg‐derived chemicals under different seawater CO2 (and therefore pH) treatments. We found that sperm had elevated fertilization rates after swimming in the presence of egg‐derived chemicals in low pH (pH 7.6) compared with ambient (pH 8.0) seawater. This observed effect could have important implications for the reproductive fitness of external fertilizers, where gamete compatibility plays a critical role in modulating reproduction in many species. For example, elevated sperm fertilization rates might disrupt the eggs’ capacity to avoid fertilizations by genetically incompatible sperm. Our findings highlight the need to understand how OA affects the multiple stages of sperm‐egg interactions and to develop approaches that disentangle the implications of OA for female, male, and population fitness.

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Dynamics of the carbonate system across the Peruvian oxygen minimum zone

The oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) of Peru is recognized as a source of CO2 to the atmosphere due to upwelling that brings water with high concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) to the surface. However, the influence of OMZ dynamics on the carbonate system remains poorly understood given a lack of direct observations. This study examines the influence of a coastal Eastern South Pacific OMZ on carbonate system dynamics based on a multidisciplinary cruise that took place in 2014. During the cruise, onboard DIC and pH measurements were used to estimate pCO2 and to calculate the calcium carbonate saturation state (Ω aragonite and calcite). South of Chimbote (9°S), water stratification decreased and both the oxycline and carbocline moved from 150 m depth to 20–50 m below the surface. The aragonite saturation depth was observed to be close to 50 m. However, values <1.2 were detected close to 20 m along with low pH (minimum of 7.5), high pCO2 (maximum 1,250 μatm), and high DIC concentrations (maximum 2,300 μmol kg−1). These chemical characteristics are shown to be associated with Equatorial Subsurface Water (ESSW). Large spatial variability in surface values was also found. Part of this variability can be attributed to the influence of mesoscale eddies, which can modify the distribution of biogeochemical variables, such as the aragonite saturation horizon, in response to shallower (cyclonic eddies) or deeper (anticyclonic eddies) thermoclines. The analysis of a 21-year (1993–2014) data set of mean sea surface level anomalies (SSHa) derived from altimetry data indicated that a large variance associated with interannual timescales was present near the coast. However, 2014 was characterized by weak Kelvin activity, and physical forcing was more associated with eddy activity. Mesoscale activity modulates the position of the upper boundary of ESSW, which is associated with high DIC and influences the carbocline and aragonite saturation depths. Weighing the relative importance of each individual signal results in a better understanding of the biogeochemical processes present in the area.

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Specific dynamic action of mussels exposed to TiO2 nanoparticles and seawater acidification


• Low pH can enhance the toxicity of TiO2 NPs to mussels.

• The feeding and metabolism of mussels are impaired by TiO2 NPs and low pH.

• TiO2 NPs and low pH have significant interactions and carry-over effects on mussels.


Both nanoparticles (NPs) and ocean acidification (OA) pose threats to marine animals as well as marine ecosystems. The present study aims to evaluate the combined effects of NPs and OA on specific dynamic action (SDA) of mussels. The thick shell mussels Mytilus coruscus were exposed to two levels of pH (7.3 and 8.1) and three concentrations of TiO2 NPs (0, 2.5, and 10 mg L−1) for 14 days followed by a 7-day recovery period. The SDA parameters, including standard metabolic rate, peak metabolic rate, aerobic metabolic scope, SDA slope, time to peak, SDA duration and SDA, were measured. The results showed that TiO2 NPs and low pH significantly affected all parameters throughout the experiment. When the mussels were exposed to seawater acidification or TiO2 NPs conditions, standard metabolic rate, aerobic metabolic scope, SDA slope and SDA significantly decreased, whereas peak metabolic rate, time to peak and SDA duration significantly increased. In addition, interactive effects between TiO2 NPs and pH were observed in SDA parameters except time to peak and SDA. Therefore, the synergistic effect of TiO2 NPs and low pH can adversely affect the feeding metabolism of mussels.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book