Archive for August, 2009



OCB Ocean Acidification web site

The U.S. Ocean Carbon & Biogeochemistry (OCB) Project has launched the OCB Ocean Acidification web site.
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The ESF Science Policy Briefing 37 entitled “Impacts of Ocean Acidification”

Following a strategic workshop on the impacts of ocean acidification held in Meloneras, Gran Canaria (ES), 28-30 January 2008, the European Science Foundation has just released the ESF Science Policy Briefing 37 entitled “Impacts of Ocean Acidification”.
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An iconic approach for representing climate change

International and national greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals implicitly rely in part on individuals undertaking voluntary emissions reductions through lifestyle decisions. Whilst there is widespread public recognition of climate change as an issue, there are many barriers – cognitive, psychological and social – preventing individuals from enacting lifestyle decarbonisation. More effective climate change communication approaches are needed which allow individuals to engage meaningfully with climate change, thus opening new prospects for lifestyle decarbonisation. This study presents an iconic approach to engagement, tested in the UK context, which allows individuals to approach climate change through their own personal values and experiences. The iconic approach harnesses the emotive and visual power of climate icons with a rigorous scientific analysis of climate impacts under a different climate future. Although some climate icons already exist – for example the Thermohaline Circulation shutdown – these ‘expert-led’ icons fail to effectively engage ‘non-experts’. We demonstrate that the non-expert-led iconic approach helps overcome some of the cognitive and affective barriers that impede action towards lifestyle decarbonisation.
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Calcification of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa, under ambient and reduced pH (update)

The cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa is one of the few species able to build reef-like structures and a 3-dimensional coral framework in the deep oceans. Furthermore, deep cold-water coral bioherms may be among the first marine ecosystems to be affected by ocean acidification. Colonies of L. pertusa were collected during a cruise in 2006 to cold-water coral bioherms of the Mingulay reef complex (Hebrides, North Atlantic). Shortly after sample collection onboard these corals were labelled with calcium-45. The same experimental approach was used to assess calcification rates and how those changed due to reduced pH during a cruise to the Skagerrak (North Sea) in 2007. The highest calcification rates were found in youngest polyps with up to 1% d−1 new skeletal growth and average rates of 0.11±0.02% d−1±S.E.). Lowering pH by 0.15 and 0.3 units relative to the ambient level resulted in calcification being reduced by 30 and 56%. Lower pH reduced calcification more in fast growing, young polyps (59% reduction) than in older polyps (40% reduction). Thus skeletal growth of young and fast calcifying corallites suffered more from ocean acidification. Nevertheless, L. pertusa exhibited positive net calcification (as measured by 45Ca incorporation) even at an aragonite saturation state (Ωa) below 1.
Continue reading ‘Calcification of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa, under ambient and reduced pH (update)’

Metagenomic analysis of stressed coral holobionts

The coral holobiont is the community of metazoans, protists and microbes associated with scleractinian corals. Disruptions in these associations have been correlated with coral disease, but little is known about the series of events involved in the shift from mutualism to pathogenesis. To evaluate structural and functional changes in coral microbial communities, Porites compressa was exposed to four stressors: increased temperature, elevated nutrients, dissolved organic carbon loading and reduced pH. Microbial metagenomic samples were collected and pyrosequenced. Functional gene analysis demonstrated that stressors increased the abundance of microbial genes involved in virulence, stress resistance, sulfur and nitrogen metabolism, motility and chemotaxis, fatty acid and lipid utilization, and secondary metabolism. Relative changes in taxonomy also demonstrated that coral-associated microbiota (Archaea, Bacteria, protists) shifted from a healthy-associated coral community (e.g. Cyanobacteria, Proteobacteria and the zooxanthellae Symbiodinium) to a community (e.g. Bacteriodetes, Fusobacteria and Fungi) of microbes often found on diseased corals. Additionally, low-abundance Vibrio spp. were found to significantly alter microbiome metabolism, suggesting that the contribution of a just a few members of a community can profoundly shift the health status of the coral holobiont.
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Synergistic effects of climate change and local stressors: CO2 and nutrient-driven change in subtidal rocky habitats

Climate-driven change represents the cumulative effect of global through local-scale conditions, and understanding their manifestation at local scales can empower local management. Change in the dominance of habitats is often the product of local nutrient pollution that occurs at relatively local scales (i.e. catchment scale), a critical scale of management at which global impacts will manifest. We tested whether forecasted global-scale change [elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) and subsequent ocean acidification] and local stressors (elevated nutrients) can combine to accelerate the expansion of filamentous turfs at the expense of calcifying algae (kelp understorey). Our results not only support this model of future change, but also highlight the synergistic effects of future CO2 and nutrient concentrations on the abundance of turfs. These results suggest that global and local stressors need to be assessed in meaningful combinations so that the anticipated effects of climate change do not create the false impression that, however complex, climate change will produce smaller effects than reality. These findings empower local managers because they show that policies of reducing local stressors (e.g. nutrient pollution) can reduce the effects of global stressors not under their governance (e.g. ocean acidification). The connection between research and government policy provides an example whereby knowledge (and decision making) across local through global scales provides solutions to some of the most vexing challenges for attaining social goals of sustainability, biological conservation and economic development.
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The effect of ocean acidification and temperature on the fertilization and embryonic development of the Sydney rock oyster Saccostrea glomerata (Gould 1850)

This study investigated the synergistic effects of ocean acidification (caused by elevations in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide pCO2) and temperature on the fertilization and embryonic development of the economically and ecologically important Sydney rock oyster, Saccostrea glomerata (Gould 1850). As pCO2 increased, fertilization significantly decreased. The temperature of 26 °C was the optimum temperature for fertilization, as temperature increased and decreased from this optimum, fertilization decreased. There was also an effect of pCO2 and temperature on embryonic development. Generally as pCO2 increased, the percentage and size of D-veligers decreased and the percentage of D-veligers that were abnormal increased. The optimum temperature was 26 °C and embryonic development decreased at temperatures that were above and below this temperature. Abnormality of D-veligers was greatest at 1000 ppm and 18 and 30 °C (≥90%) and least at 375 ppm and 26 °C (≤4%). Finally prolonged exposure of elevated pCO2 and temperature across early developmental stages led to fewer D-veligers, more abnormality and smaller sizes in elevated CO2 environments and may lead to lethal effects at suboptimal temperatures. Embryos that were exposed to the pCO2 and temperature treatments for fertilization and embryonic development had fewer D-veligers, greater percentage of abnormality and reduced size than embryos that were exposed to the treatments for embryonic development only. Further at the elevated temperature of 30 °C and 750–1000 ppm, there was no embryonic development. The results of this study suggest that predicted changes in ocean acidification and temperature over the next century may have severe implications for the distribution and abundance of S. glomerata as well as possible implications for the reproduction and development of other marine invertebrates.
Continue reading ‘The effect of ocean acidification and temperature on the fertilization and embryonic development of the Sydney rock oyster Saccostrea glomerata (Gould 1850)’

Transcriptomic response of sea urchin larvae Strongylocentrotus purpuratus to CO2-driven seawater acidification

Ocean acidification from the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 is expected to have deleterious consequences for many calcifying marine animals. Forecasting the vulnerability of these marine organisms to climate change is linked to an understanding of whether species possess the physiological capacity to compensate for the potentially adverse effects of ocean acidification. We carried out a microarray-based transcriptomic analysis of the physiological response of larvae of a calcifying marine invertebrate, the purple sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, to CO2-driven seawater acidification. In lab-based cultures, larvae were raised under conditions approximating current ocean pH conditions (pH 8.01) and at projected, more acidic pH conditions (pH 7.96 and 7.88) in seawater aerated with CO2 gas. Targeting expression of ~1000 genes involved in several biological processes, this study captured changes in gene expression patterns that characterize the transcriptomic response to CO2-driven seawater acidification of developing sea urchin larvae. In response to both elevated CO2 scenarios, larvae underwent broad scale decreases in gene expression in four major cellular processes: biomineralization, cellular stress response, metabolism and apoptosis. This study underscores that physiological processes beyond calcification are impacted greatly, suggesting that overall physiological capacity and not just a singular focus on biomineralization processes is essential for forecasting the impact of future CO2 conditions on marine organisms. Conducted on targeted and vulnerable species, genomics-based studies, such as the one highlighted here, have the potential to identify potential `weak links’ in physiological function that may ultimately determine an organism’s capacity to tolerate future ocean conditions.
Continue reading ‘Transcriptomic response of sea urchin larvae Strongylocentrotus purpuratus to CO2-driven seawater acidification’

OP ED: Global warming could mean shell shock to local oysters

Soft-shell crab may be a delicacy, but how would you like a soft-shell oyster?

That’s what we may be trying to eat (and market) if there is a failure to limit the amount of carbon dioxide that is being put into the atmosphere. The connection between the two may not be obvious, but the conclusion will be. Let’s begin with a look at the role of oyster production in the Ocean State.

Rhode Island has a long history of commercial oyster production. In the early 1900s, oyster sales in our state topped $50 million each year in today’s dollars. However, by the middle of the 20th century, oyster production crashed due to a combination of factors, predominantly habitat loss, disease, natural disasters and turf conflicts with net fisheries. Oyster stocks are now being rebuilt, largely through aquaculture. In today’s markets, Rhode Island aquaculture is generating more than $1.5 million in annual revenue, 99 percent of which comes from oysters. Supporting industries such as fishing supply companies, boatyards and distributors receive revenues that exceed $4.3 million per year. This makes oysters an important crop that bolsters our economy and continues our long heritage in shellfish production.
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Ocean acidification in Alaska

New findings show increased ocean acidification in Alaska waters

The same things that make Alaska’s marine waters among the most productive in the world may also make them the most vulnerable to ocean acidification. According to new findings by a University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist, Alaska’s oceans are becoming increasingly acidic, which could damage Alaska’s king crab and salmon fisheries.

This spring, chemical oceanographer Jeremy Mathis returned from a cruise armed with seawater samples collected from the depths of the Gulf of Alaska. When he tested the samples’ acidity in his lab, the results were higher than expected. They show that ocean acidification is likely more severe and is happening more rapidly in Alaska than in tropical waters. The results also matched his recent findings in the Chukchi and Bering Seas.

“It seems like everywhere we look in Alaska’s coastal oceans, we see signs of increased ocean acidification,” said Mathis.
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