Larval carry-over effects from ocean acidification persist in the natural environment

An extensive body of work suggests that altered marine carbonate chemistry can negatively influence marine invertebrates, but few studies have examined how effects are moderated and persist in the natural environment. A particularly important question is whether impacts initiated in early life might be exacerbated or attenuated over time in the presence or absence of other stressors in the field. We reared Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida) larvae in laboratory cultures under control and elevated seawater pCO2 concentrations, quantified settlement success and size at metamorphosis, then outplanted juveniles to Tomales Bay, California, in the mid intertidal zone where emersion and temperature stress were higher, and in the low intertidal zone where conditions were more benign. We tracked survival and growth of outplanted juveniles for four months, halfway to reproductive age. Survival to metamorphosis in the laboratory was strongly affected by larval exposure to elevated pCO2 conditions. Survival of juvenile outplants was reduced dramatically at mid shore compared to low shore levels regardless of the pCO2 level that oysters experienced as larvae. However, juveniles that were exposed to elevated pCO2 as larvae grew less than control individuals, representing a larval carry-over effect. Although juveniles grew less at mid shore than low shore levels, there was no evidence of an interaction between the larval carry-over effect and shore level, suggesting little modulation of acidification impacts by emersion or temperature stress. Importantly, the carry-over effects of larval exposure to ocean acidification remained unabated four months later with no evidence of compensatory growth, even under benign conditions. This latter result points to the potential for extended consequences of brief exposures to altered seawater chemistry with potential consequences for population dynamics.

Hettinger A., Sanford E., Hill T. M., Lenz E. A., Russell A. D. & Gaylord B., in press. Larval carry-over effects from ocean acidification persist in the natural environment. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).

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