Interactive effects of metal pollution and ocean acidification on physiology of marine organisms

Changes in the global environment such as ocean acidification (OA) may interact with anthropogenic pollutants including trace metals threatening the integrity of marine ecosystems. We analyze recent studies on the interactive effects of OA and trace metals on marine organisms with a focus on the physiological basis of these interactions. Our analysis shows that the responses to elevated CO2 and metals are strongly dependent on the species, developmental stage, metal biochemistry and the degree of environmental hypercapnia, and cannot be directly predicted from the CO2-induced changes in metal solubility and speciation. The key physiological functions affected by both the OA and trace metal exposures involve acid-base regulation, protein turnover and mitochondrial bioenergetics, reflecting the sensitivity of the underlying molecular and cellular pathways to CO2 and metals. Physiological interactions between elevated CO2 and metals may impact the organisms’ capacity to maintain acid-base homeostasis and reduce the amount of energy available for fitness-related functions such as growth, development and reproduction thereby affecting survival and performance of estuarine populations. Environmental hypercapnia may also affect the marine food webs by altering predator-prey interactions and the trophic transfer of metals in the food chain. However, our understanding of the degree to which these effects can impact the function and integrity of marine ecosystems is limited due the scarcity of the published research and its bias towards certain taxonomic groups. Future research priorities should include studies of metal x PCO2 interactions focusing on critical physiological functions (including acid-base, protein and energy homeostasis) in a greater range of ecologically and economically important marine species, as well as including the field populations naturally exposed (and potentially adapted) to different levels of metals and CO2 in their environment.

Ivanina A. V. & Sokolova I. M., 2015. Interactive effects of metal pollution and ocean acidification on physiology of marine organisms. Current Zoology 61(4):653-668. Article.


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