Archive for February, 2014

Seasonal carbonate chemistry covariation with temperature, oxygen, and salinity in a fjord estuary: implications for the design of ocean acidification experiments

Carbonate chemistry variability is often poorly characterized in coastal regions and patterns of covariation with other biologically important variables such as temperature, oxygen concentration, and salinity are rarely evaluated. This absence of information hampers the design and interpretation of ocean acidification experiments that aim to characterize biological responses to future pCO2 levels relative to contemporary conditions. Here, we analyzed a large carbonate chemistry data set from Puget Sound, a fjord estuary on the U.S. west coast, and included measurements from three seasons (winter, summer, and fall). pCO2 exceeded the 2008–2011 mean atmospheric level (392 µatm) at all depths and seasons sampled except for the near-surface waters (< 10 m) in the summer. Further, undersaturated conditions with respect to the biogenic carbonate mineral aragonite were widespread (Ωar<1). We show that pCO2 values were relatively uniform throughout the water column and across regions in winter, enriched in subsurface waters in summer, and in the fall some values exceeded 2500 µatm in near-surface waters. Carbonate chemistry covaried to differing levels with temperature and oxygen depending primarily on season and secondarily on region. Salinity, which varied little (27 to 31), was weakly correlated with carbonate chemistry. We illustrate potential high-frequency changes in carbonate chemistry, temperature, and oxygen conditions experienced simultaneously by organisms in Puget Sound that undergo diel vertical migrations under present-day conditions. We used simple calculations to estimate future pCO2 and Ωar values experienced by diel vertical migrators based on an increase in atmospheric CO2. Given the potential for non-linear interactions between pCO2 and other abiotic variables on physiological and ecological processes, our results provide a basis for identifying control conditions in ocean acidification experiments for this region, but also highlight the wide range of carbonate chemistry conditions organisms may currently experience in this and similar coastal ecosystems.
Continue reading ‘Seasonal carbonate chemistry covariation with temperature, oxygen, and salinity in a fjord estuary: implications for the design of ocean acidification experiments’

Influence of temperature and CO2 on the strontium and magnesium composition of coccolithophore calcite (update)

Marine calcareous sediments provide a fundamental basis for palaeoceanographic studies aiming to reconstruct past oceanic conditions and understand key biogeochemical element cycles. Calcifying unicellular phytoplankton (coccolithophores) are a major contributor to both carbon and calcium cycling by photosynthesis and the production of calcite (coccoliths) in the euphotic zone, and the subsequent long-term deposition and burial into marine sediments. Here we present data from controlled laboratory experiments on four coccolithophore species and elucidate the relation between the divalent cation (Sr, Mg and Ca) partitioning in coccoliths and cellular physiology (growth, calcification and photosynthesis). Coccolithophores were cultured under different seawater temperature and carbonate chemistry conditions. The partition coefficient of strontium (DSr) was positively correlated with both carbon dioxide (pCO2) and temperature but displayed no coherent relation to particulate organic and inorganic carbon production rates. Furthermore, DSr correlated positively with cellular growth rates when driven by temperature but no correlation was present when changes in growth rates were pCO2-induced. Our results demonstrate the complex interaction between environmental forcing and physiological control on the strontium partitioning in coccolithophore calcite and challenge interpretations of the coccolith Sr / Ca ratio from high-pCO2 environments (e.g. Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum). The partition coefficient of magnesium (DMg) displayed species-specific differences and elevated values under nutrient limitation. No conclusive correlation between coccolith DMg and temperature was observed but pCO2 induced a rising trend in coccolith DMg. Interestingly, the best correlation was found between coccolith DMg and chlorophyll a production, suggesting that chlorophyll a and calcite associated Mg originate from the same intracellular pool. These and previous findings indicate that Mg is transported into the cell and to the site of calcification via different pathways than Ca and Sr. Consequently, the coccolith Mg / Ca ratio should be decoupled from the seawater Mg / Ca ratio. This study gives an extended insight into the driving factors influencing the coccolith Mg / Ca ratio and should be considered for future palaeoproxy calibrations.
Continue reading ‘Influence of temperature and CO2 on the strontium and magnesium composition of coccolithophore calcite (update)’

The influence of ocean acidification on nitrogen regeneration and nitrous oxide production in the North-West European shelf sea

The assimilation and regeneration of dissolved inorganic nitrogen, and the concentration of N2O, was investigated at stations located in the NW European shelf sea during June/July 2011. These observational measurements within the photic zone demonstrated the simultaneous regeneration and assimilation of NH4+, NO2 and NO3. NH4+ was assimilated at 1.82–49.12 nmol N L−1 h−1 and regenerated at 3.46–14.60 nmol N L−1 h−1; NO2 was assimilated at 0–2.08 nmol N L−1 h−1 and regenerated at 0.01–1.85 nmol N L−1 h−1; NO3 was assimilated at 0.67–18.75 nmol N L−1 h−1 and regenerated at 0.05–28.97 nmol N L−1 h−1. Observations implied that these processes were closely coupled at the regional scale and nitrogen recycling played an important role in sustaining phytoplankton growth during the summer. The [N2O], measured in water column profiles, was 10.13 ± 1.11 nmol L−1 and did not strongly diverge from atmospheric equilibrium indicating that sampled marine regions where neither a strong source nor sink of N2O to the atmosphere. Multivariate analysis of data describing water column biogeochemistry and its links to N-cycling activity failed to explain the observed variance in rates of N-regeneration and N-assimilation, possibly due to the limited number of process rate observations. In the surface waters of 5 further stations, Ocean Acidification (OA) bioassay experiments were conducted to investigate the response of NH4+ oxidising and regenerating organisms to simulated OA conditions, including the implications for [N2O]. Multivariate analysis was undertaken which considered the complete bioassay dataset of measured variables describing changes in N-regeneration rate, [N2O] and the biogeochemical composition of seawater. While anticipating biogeochemical differences between locations, we aimed to test the hypothesis that the underlying mechanism through which pelagic N-regeneration responded to simulated OA conditions was independent of location and that a mechanistic understanding of how NH4+ oxidation, NH4+ regeneration and N2O production responded to OA could be developed. Results indicated that N-regeneration process responses to OA treatments were location specific; no mechanistic understanding of how N-regeneration processes respond to OA in the surface ocean of the NW European shelf sea could be developed.
Continue reading ‘The influence of ocean acidification on nitrogen regeneration and nitrous oxide production in the North-West European shelf sea’

MRes Outreach Bursary in Biosciences: Effects of ocean acidification on crustacean behaviour

Research Summary: Applications are invited for an MRes Outreach Bursary in Biosciences. The student will carry out a lab-based project exploring the effects of ocean acidification on crustacean behaviour. The increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing the chemistry of the oceans with broadly unknown consequences for marine life. These chemical changes, which can be summarised as a decrease in both the pH and availability of biologically useful forms of carbonate, are collectively termed ocean acidification. Recent work has demonstrated substantial changes in fish behaviour when exposed to near-future ocean acidification conditions and proposed a mechanism: disruption in neurotransmitter reception. As the neurotransmitter involved is highly evolutionarily conserved, we are interested in whether behavioural effects will also be observed in another phylum: Crustacea

Continue reading ‘MRes Outreach Bursary in Biosciences: Effects of ocean acidification on crustacean behaviour’

Ocean acidification threatens British shellfish industry (video)

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification threatens British shellfish industry (video)’

Relative roles of endolithic algae and carbonate chemistry variability in the skeletal dissolution of crustose coralline algae

The susceptibility of crustose coralline algae (CCA) skeletons to dissolution is predicted to increase as oceans warm and acidify. Skeletal dissolution is caused by bioerosion from endolithic microorganisms and by chemical processes associated with undersaturation of carbonate minerals in seawater. Yet, the relative contribution of algal microborers and seawater carbonate chemistry to the dissolution of organisms that cement reefs under projected CO2 and temperature (CO2-T) scenarios have not been quantified. We exposed CCA skeletons (Porolithon onkodes) to four CO2-T treatments (pre-industrial, present-day, SRES-B1 reduced CO2 emission scenario, SRES-A1FI business-as-usual CO2 emission scenario) under natural light cycles vs. constant dark conditions for 8 weeks. Dissolution rates of skeletons without photo-endoliths were dramatically higher (200%) than those colonized by endolithic algae across all CO2-T scenarios. This suggests that daytime photosynthesis by microborers counteract dissolution by reduced saturation states resulting in lower net erosion rates over day-night cycles. Regardless of the presence or absence of phototrophic microborers, skeletal dissolution increased significantly under the spring A1FI “business-as-usual” scenario, confirming the CCA sensitivity to future oceans. Projected ocean acidity and temperature may significantly disturb the stability of reef frameworks cemented by CCA, but surficial substrates harboring photosynthetic microborers will be less impacted than those without algal endoliths.

Continue reading ‘Relative roles of endolithic algae and carbonate chemistry variability in the skeletal dissolution of crustose coralline algae’

Exploring local adaptation and the ocean acidification seascape – studies in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (update)

The California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME), a temperate marine region dominated by episodic upwelling, is predicted to experience rapid environmental change in the future due to ocean acidification. The aragonite saturation state within the California Current System is predicted to decrease in the future with near-permanent undersaturation conditions expected by the year 2050. Thus, the CCLME is a critical region to study due to the rapid rate of environmental change that resident organisms will experience and because of the economic and societal value of this coastal region. Recent efforts by a research consortium – the Ocean Margin Ecosystems Group for Acidification Studies (OMEGAS) – has begun to characterize a portion of the CCLME; both describing the spatial mosaic of pH in coastal waters and examining the responses of key calcification-dependent benthic marine organisms to natural variation in pH and to changes in carbonate chemistry that are expected in the coming decades. In this review, we present the OMEGAS strategy of co-locating sensors and oceanographic observations with biological studies on benthic marine invertebrates, specifically measurements of functional traits such as calcification-related processes and genetic variation in populations that are locally adapted to conditions in a particular region of the coast. Highlighted in this contribution are (1) the OMEGAS sensor network that spans the west coast of the US from central Oregon to southern California, (2) initial findings of the carbonate chemistry amongst the OMEGAS study sites, and (3) an overview of the biological data that describes the acclimatization and the adaptation capacity of key benthic marine invertebrates within the CCLME.

Continue reading ‘Exploring local adaptation and the ocean acidification seascape – studies in the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (update)’

Is coccolithophore distribution in the Mediterranean Sea related to seawater carbonate chemistry?

The Mediterranean Sea is considered a “hot-spot” for climate change, being characterized by oligotrophic to ultra-oligotrophic waters and rapidly changing carbonate chemistry. Coccolithophores are considered a dominant phytoplankton group in these waters. As a marine calcifying organism they are expected to respond to the ongoing changes in seawater CO2 systems parameters. However, very few studies have covered the entire Mediterranean physiochemical gradients from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Eastern Mediterranean Levantine Basin. We provide here an updated state of knowledge of the coccolithophore distribution in the Mediterranean Sea and relate this to a broad set of in situ measured environmental variables. Samples were taken during the Meteor (M84/3) oceanographic cruise in April 2011, between 0–100 m water depth from 28 stations. Total diatom, dinoflagellate and silicoflagellate cell concentrations are also presented. Our results highlight the importance of seawater carbonate chemistry, especially CO32−, in unraveling the distribution of heterococcolithophores, the most abundant coccolithophore life phase. Holo- and hetero-coccolithophores respond differently to environmental factors. For instance, changes in heterococcolithophore assemblages were best linked to the combination of [CO32−], pH, and salinity (ρ = 0.57) although salinity might be not functionally related to coccolithophore assemblage distribution. Holococcolithophores, on the other hand, were preferentially distributed and showed higher species diversity in oligotrophic areas (Best fit, ρ = 0.32 for nutrients), thriving in nutrient depleted waters. Clustering of heterococcolithophores revealed three groups of species sharing more than 65% similarities. These clusters could be assigned to the eastern and western basins, and deeper layers (below 50 m), respectively. In addition, the species Gephyrocapsa oceanica, G. muellerae and Emiliania huxleyi morphotype B/C are spatially distributed together and trace the influx of Atlantic waters into the Mediterranean Sea. The results of the present work emphasize the importance of considering holo- and hetero-coccolithophores separately when analyzing changes in species assemblages and diversity. Our findings clearly show that coccolithophores are a dominant phytoplankton group in the entire Mediterranean Sea; they have life stages that are expected to respond differently to the variability in seawater carbonate chemistry and nutrient concentrations.

Continue reading ‘Is coccolithophore distribution in the Mediterranean Sea related to seawater carbonate chemistry?’

Acidification des océans : l’expérience eFoce débutera en mars (in French)

Jusqu’au printemps 2015, les scientifiques de l’expérience eFoce s’intéresseront aux impacts de l’acidification des océans sur des plantes aquatiques et de petits organismes vivant à proximité.

Initialement prévue à la fin de l’année dernière, l’expérience eFoce, d’observation des impacts de l’acidification de l’océan, débutera finalement en mars. “A Noël, nous avons essuyé une tempête dévastatrice dans la rade : un morceau de carcasse de bateau échoué est venu percuter et détruire un de nos aquariums, nous sommes en période de reconstruction“, explique Frédéric Gazeau, coordinateur du projet, chercheur au laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche. Les futurs systèmes seront conçus pour être enlevés plus facilement, afin d’éviter ce type de désagréments. Les expériences devraient ensuite se dérouler jusqu’au printemps 2015.

Continue reading ‘Acidification des océans : l’expérience eFoce débutera en mars (in French)’

Changes in calcification of coccoliths under stable atmospheric CO2 (update)

The response of coccolithophore calcification to ocean acidification has been studied in culture experiments as well as in present and past oceans. The response, however, is different between species and strains, and for the relatively small carbonate chemistry changes observed in natural environments, a uniform response of the entire coccolithophore community has not been documented so far. Moreover, previous palaeo-studies basically focus on changes in coccolith weight due to increasing CO2 and the resulting changes in the carbonate system, and only few studies focus on the influence of other environmental factors. In order to untangle changes in coccolithophore calcification due to environmental factors such as temperature and/or productivity from changes caused by increasing pCO2 and decreasing carbonate ion concentration, we here present a study on coccolith calcification from the Holocene North Atlantic Ocean. The pre-industrial Holocene, with its predominantly stable atmospheric CO2, provides the conditions for such a comprehensive analysis. For an analysis on changes in major components of Holocene coccolithophores under natural conditions, the family Noelaerhabdaceae was selected, which constitutes the main part of the assemblage in the North Atlantic.

Records of average coccolith weights from three Holocene sediment cores along a north–south transect in the North Atlantic were analysed. During the Holocene, mean weight (and therefore calcification) of Noelaerhabdaceae (Emiliania huxleyi and Gephyrocapsa) coccoliths decreased at the Azores (Geofar KF 16) from around 7 to 6 pg, but increased at the Rockall Plateau (ODP site 980) from around 6 to 8 pg, and at the Vøring Plateau (MD08-3192) from 7 to 10 pg. The amplitude of average weight variability is within the range of glacial–interglacial changes that were interpreted to be an effect of decreasing carbonate ion concentration. By comparison with SEM assemblage counts, we show that weight changes are not only partly due to variations in the coccolithophore assemblage but also an effect of a change in calcification and/or morphotype variability within single species. Our results indicate that there is no single key factor responsible for the observed changes in coccolith weight. A major increase in coccolith weight occurs during a slight decrease in carbonate ion concentration in the late Holocene at the Rockall Plateau and Vøring Plateau. Here, more favourable productivity conditions apparently lead to an increase in coccolith weight, either due to the capability of coccolithophore species, especially E. huxleyi, to adapt to decreasing carbonate ion concentration or due to a shift towards heavier calcifying morphotypes.

Continue reading ‘Changes in calcification of coccoliths under stable atmospheric CO2 (update)’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book