The stunting effect of a high CO2 ocean on calcification and development in sea urchin larvae, a synthesis from the tropics to the poles

The stunting effect of ocean acidification on development of calcifying invertebrate larvae has emerged as a significant effect of global change. We assessed the arm growth response of sea urchin echinoplutei, here used as a proxy of larval calcification, to increased seawater acidity/pCO2 and decreased carbonate mineral saturation in a global synthesis of data from 15 species. Phylogenetic relatedness did not influence the observed patterns. Regardless of habitat or latitude, ocean acidification impedes larval growth with a negative relationship between arm length and increased acidity/pCO2 and decreased carbonate mineral saturation. In multiple linear regression models incorporating these highly correlated parameters, pCO2 exerted the greatest influence on decreased arm growth in the global dataset and also in the data subsets for polar and subtidal species. Thus, reduced growth appears largely driven by organism hypercapnia. For tropical species, decreased carbonate mineral saturation was most important. No single parameter played a dominant role in arm size reduction in the temperate species. For intertidal species, the models were equivocal. Levels of acidification causing a significant (approx. 10–20+%) reduction in arm growth varied between species. In 13 species, reduction in length of arms and supporting skeletal rods was evident in larvae reared in near-future (pCO2 800+ µatm) conditions, whereas greater acidification (pCO2 1000+ µatm) reduced growth in all species. Although multi-stressor studies are few, when temperature is added to the stressor mix, near-future warming can reduce the negative effect of acidification on larval growth. Broadly speaking, responses of larvae from across world regions showed similar trends despite disparate phylogeny, environments and ecology. Larval success may be the bottleneck for species success with flow-on effects for sea urchin populations and marine ecosystems.

Byrne M., Lamare M., Winter D., Dworjanyn S. A. & Uthicke S., 2013. The stunting effect of a high CO2 ocean on calcification and development in sea urchin larvae, a synthesis from the tropics to the poles. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 368(1627): 20120439. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0439. Article (subscription required).

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