Multistressor impacts of warming and acidification of the ocean on marine invertebrates’ life histories

Benthic marine invertebrates live in a multistressor world where stressor levels are, and will continue to be, exacerbated by global warming and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. These changes are causing the oceans to warm, decrease in pH, become hypercapnic, and to become less saturated in carbonate minerals. These stressors have strong impacts on biological processes, but little is known about their combined effects on the development of marine invertebrates. Increasing temperature has a stimulatory effect on development, whereas hypercapnia can depress developmental processes. The pH, pCO2, and CaCO3 of seawater change simultaneously with temperature, challenging our ability to predict future outcomes for marine biota. The need to consider both warming and acidification is reflected in the recent increase in cross-factorial studies of the effects of these stressors on development of marine invertebrates. The outcomes and trends in these studies are synthesized here. Based on this compilation, significant additive or antagonistic effects of warming and acidification of the ocean are common (16 of 20 species studied), and synergistic negative effects also are reported. Fertilization can be robust to near-future warming and acidification, depending on the male–female mating pair. Although larvae and juveniles of some species tolerate near-future levels of warming and acidification (+2°C/pH 7.8), projected far-future conditions (ca. ≥4°C/ ≤pH 7.6) are widely deleterious, with a reduction in the size and survival of larvae. It appears that larvae that calcify are sensitive both to warming and acidification, whereas those that do not calcify are more sensitive to warming. Different sensitivities of life-history stages and species have implications for persistence and community function in a changing ocean. Some species are more resilient than others and may be potential “winners” in the climate-change stakes. As the ocean will change more gradually over coming decades than in “future shock” perturbation investigations, it is likely that some species, particularly those with short generation times, may be able to tolerate near-future oceanic change through acclimatization and/or adaption.

Byrne M. & Przeslawski R., in press. Multistressor impacts of warming and acidification of the ocean on marine invertebrates’ life histories. Integrative and Comparative Biology. Article (subscription required).


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