Lethal and sub-lethal effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on marine benthic invertebrates and fish

Concern about leakage of carbon dioxide (CO2) from deep-sea storage in geological reservoirs is increasing because of its possible adverse effects on marine organisms locally or at nearby coastal areas both in sediment and water column. In the present study, we examined how elevated CO2 affects various intertidal epibenthic (benthic copepod), intertidal endobenthic (Manila clam and Venus clam), sub-tidal benthic (brittle starfish), and free-living (marine medaka) organisms in areas expected to be impacted by leakage. Acute lethal and sub-lethal effects were detected in the adult stage of all test organisms exposed to varying concentrations of CO2, due to the associated decline in pH (8.3 to 5.2) during 96-h exposure. However, intertidal organisms (such as benthic copepods and clams) showed remarkable resistance to elevated CO2, with the Venus clam being the most tolerant (LpH50 = 5.45). Sub-tidal species (such as brittle starfish [LpH50 = 6.16] and marine medaka [LpH50 = 5.91]) were more sensitive to elevated CO2 compared to intertidal species, possibly because they have fewer defensive capabilities. Of note, the exposure duration might regulate the degree of acute sub-lethal effects, as evidenced by the Venus clam, which showed a time-dependent effect to elevated CO2. Finally, copper was chosen as a model toxic element to find out the synergistic or antagonistic effects between ocean acidification and metal pollution. Combination of CO2 and Cu exposure enhances the adverse effects to organisms, generally supporting a synergistic effect scenario. Overall, the significant variation in the degree to which CO2 adversely affected organisms (viz., working range and strength) was clearly observed, supporting the general concept of species-dependent effects of elevated CO2.

Lee C., Hong S., Kwon B.-O., Lee J.-H., Ryu J., Park Y.-G., Kang S.-G. & Khim J. S., in press. Lethal and sub-lethal effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on marine benthic invertebrates and fish. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Article (subscription required).


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