Pteropod time series from the North Western Mediterranean (1967-2003): impacts of pH and climate variability

Environmental changes resulting from anthropogenic CO2 emissions occur at global and local levels and have potentially harmful effects, particularly for calcifying taxa in the marine environment. A time series of pteropod abundance covering the period 1967-2003 was isolated from the Point B (northwestern Ligurian Sea) zooplankton time series. Inter- and intra-annual changes in the abundance of 3 families (Limacinidae, Cavoliniidae and Creseidae) were compared with the copepod time series to identify any differential effects driven by ocean acidification and temperature. pH values were hind-cast from total alkalinity estimated from local temperature and salinity measurements, and atmospheric CO2 taken from the Mauna Loa time series. Although surface waters were supersaturated with respect to aragonite throughout the study period, it is estimated that pH declined by 0.05 units. All pteropod groups displayed a trend of increasing abundance, suggesting that any deleterious effect of declining pHT in the range of 0.05 units has not caused sufficient reductions in fitness as to decrease local abundances between 1967-2003. Pteropod populations are influenced by inter-annual changes in summer temperatures. Spectral analysis identified a ~14 yr periodic oscillation in sea surface temperature. Similarly timed oscillations in abundance are present for all pteropod families but not for copepods, indicating a possible influence of the North Atlantic quasi-decadal mode on pteropod populations. While laboratory studies have shown pteropods to be sensitive to changes in pH, this analysis suggests that local and regional scale drivers have had a greater effect on pteropod populations in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea in recent decades. It should be noted that pH changes in laboratory studies exceed 0.05 pH units and that the saturation state with respect to aragonite (Ωar) is usually much lower than that of the Mediterranean.

Howes E. L., Stemmann L., Assailly C., Irisson J. O., Dima M., Bijma J. & Gattuso J.-P., 2015. Pteropod time series from the North Western Mediterranean (1967-2003): impacts of pH and climate variability. Marine Ecology Progress Series 531:193-206. Article.

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