Relative influences of ocean acidification and temperature on intertidal barnacle post-larvae at the northern edge of their geographic distribution

The Arctic Ocean and its associated ecosystems face numerous challenges over the coming century. Increasing atmospheric CO2 is causing increasing warming and ice-melting as well as a concomitant change in ocean chemistry (“ocean acidification”). As temperature increases it is expected that many temperate species will expand their geographic distribution northwards to follow this thermal shift; however with the addition of ocean acidification this transition may not be so straightforward. Here we investigate the potential impacts of ocean acidification and climate change on populations of an intertidal species, in this case the barnacle Semibalanus balanoides, at the northern edge of its range. Growth and development of metamorphosing post-larvae were negatively impacted at lower pH (pH 7.7) compared to the control (pH 8.1) but were not affected by elevated temperature (+4 °C). The mineral composition of the shells did not alter under any of the treatments. The combination of reduced growth and maintained mineral content suggests that there may have been a change in the energetic balance of the exposed animals. In undersaturated conditions more mineral is expected to dissolve from the shell and hence more energy would be required to maintain the mineral integrity. Any energy that would normally be invested into growth could be reallocated and hence organisms growing in lowered pH grow slower and end up smaller than individuals grown in higher pH conditions. The idea of reallocation of resources under different conditions of pH requires further investigation. However, there could be long-term implications on the fitness of these barnacles, which in turn may prevent them from successfully colonising new areas.



Findlay, H. S., Kendall, M. A. & Widdicombe, S., 2010. Relative influences of ocean acidification and temperature on intertidal barnacle post-larvae at the northern edge of their geographic distribution. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 86(4): 675-682. Article (subscription required).


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