Archive for January, 2017

BIOACID science portrait: Nicola Wannicke – “Cyanobacteria: winners of ocean acidification” (video, in German; English subtitles)

Nicola Wannicke, marine biologist at Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research in Warnemünde (IOW) investigates winners of ocean acidification: Cyanobacteria benefit from eutrophication as well as rises in temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations. When the Baltic Sea warms in Summer and much carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea water, the algae thrive especially well. Since they release toxins that are dangerous for humans and animals, beaches need to be closed off from time to time. But there are not just negative aspects to cyanobacteria, Nicola Wannicke points out: They can also be seen as factories for different substances that could contain potential antibiotics or other active substances which may be applied in cancer treatments.





Winners and losers in the California Current under future ocean acidification

A NOAA-supported study projects that Dungeness crab and some commercial finfish species living on the sea floor may decline in future years due to increased ocean acidification in the California Current. These estimates were based on computer models forecasting changes in the California Current ocean ecosystem, which includes an expected rise in summer ocean acidification of 50 percent. Other marine organisms, including zooplankton, seabirds, marine mammals, and fish that live in the water column, are expected to be less affected.

Ocean acidification occurs when oceans partially absorb the increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in a series of chemical reactions that decrease the pH of the seawater, making it more acidic. This process is exacerbated in the California Current during summer, when coastal upwelling brings cold, deep, nutrient-rich waters up onto the continental shelf that already have higher acidity and low oxygen concentrations.

Continue reading ‘Winners and losers in the California Current under future ocean acidification’

Economic effects of ocean acidification: Publication patterns and directions for future research

Human societies derive economic benefit from marine systems, yet these benefits may be modified as humans drive environmental change. Here, we conducted the first systematic review of literature on the potential economic effects of ocean acidification. We identified that while there is a growing literature discussing this topic, assessments of the direction and magnitude of anticipated economic change remain limited. The few assessments which have been conducted indicate largely negative economic effects of ocean acidification. Insights are, however, limited as the scope of the studies remains restricted. We propose that understanding of this topic will benefit from using standard approaches (e.g. timescales and emissions scenarios) to consider an increasing range of species/habitats and ecosystem services over a range of spatial scales. The resulting understanding could inform decisions such that we maintain, or enhance, economic services obtained from future marine environments.

Continue reading ‘Economic effects of ocean acidification: Publication patterns and directions for future research’

Comparison of Mediterranean pteropod shell biometrics and ultrastructure from historical (1910 and 1921) and present day (2012) samples provides baseline for monitoring effects of global change

Anthropogenic carbon perturbation has caused decreases in seawater pH and increases in global temperatures since the start of the 20th century. The subsequent lowering of the saturation state of CaCO3 may make the secretion of skeletons more problematic for marine calcifiers. As organisms that precipitate thin aragonite shells, thecosome pteropods have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to climate change effects. Coupled with their global distribution, this makes them ideal for use as sentinel organisms. Recent studies have highlighted shell dissolution as a potential indicator of ocean acidification; however, this metric is not applicable for monitoring pH changes in supersaturated basins. In this study, the novel approach of high resolution computed tomography (CT) scanning was used to produce quantitative 3-dimensional renderings pteropod shells to assess the potential of using this method to monitor small changes in shell biometrics that may be driven by climate change drivers. An ontogenetic analysis of the shells of Cavolinia inflexa and Styliola subula collected from the Mediterranean was used to identify suitable monitoring metrics. Modern samples were then compared to historical samples of the same species, collected during the Mediterranean leg of the Thor (1910) and Dana (1921) cruises to assess whether any empirical differences could be detected. Shell densities were calculated and scanning electron microscopy was used to compare the aragonite crystal morphology. pH for the collection years was hind-cast using temperature and salinity time series with atmospheric CO2 concentrations from ice core data. Historical samples of S. subula were thicker than S. subula shells of the same size from 2012 and C. inflexa shells collected in 1910 were significantly denser than those from 2012. These results provide a baseline for future work to develop monitoring techniques for climate change in the oceans using the novel approach of high-resolution CT scanning.

Continue reading ‘Comparison of Mediterranean pteropod shell biometrics and ultrastructure from historical (1910 and 1921) and present day (2012) samples provides baseline for monitoring effects of global change’

Ocean planning in a changing climate

The ways in which humans use ocean resources needs to be carefully planned over space and time, in order to minimize conflicts and foster compatibilities among uses, and between uses and the environment1. This planning process, most often termed marine spatial planning, has been developed worldwide from coastal to open-ocean regions as a way to foster sustainable ocean management and governance. Marine spatial planning is currently being developed in about 50 countries, yet despite its widespread acceptance and uptake, it still faces many political, social, economic and environmental challenges. Here we suggest that global climate change will present an additional, evolving challenge that requires flexible and adaptive ocean planning. (…)

Continue reading ‘Ocean planning in a changing climate’

Seaweed community response to a massive CO2 input

Changes in the structure of seaweed communities were examined following a massive CO2 input caused by a submarine eruption near the coast of El Hierro island (Canary Islands, Spain). The event lasted almost five months (October 2011–March 2012) and created a significant pH gradient. Specifically, we compared three different zones: highly affected with extreme low pH (6.7–7.3), affected with low pH (7.6–7.8), and unaffected ambient pH zone (∼8.1) according to the pH gradient generated by the predominate currents and waves in the south of the island. Studies were carried out before, during and after the CO2 input event in each zone. We found community-wide effects on seaweed communities during the eruption; these included changes in species abundance and changes in the diversity. However, changes in all these community traits were only evident in the highly affected zone, where there were major shifts in the seaweed community, with a replacement of Lobophora variegata by ephemeral seaweeds. Lobophora variegata dropped in cover from 87–94 to 27% while ephemeral seaweeds increased 6–10 to 29%. When the impact ended Lobophora variegata began to recover reaching a cover higher than 60%. In the moderate affected area the Lobophora variegata canopies maintained their integrity avoiding phase shifts to turfs. Here the only significant changes were the reduction of the cover of the crustose and geniculate coralline algae.

Continue reading ‘Seaweed community response to a massive CO2 input’

Increased pCO2 and temperature reveal ecotypic differences in growth and photosynthetic performance of temperate and Arctic populations of Saccharina latissima

The Arctic population of the kelp Saccharina latissima differs from the Helgoland population in its sensitivity to changing temperature and CO2 levels. The Arctic population does more likely benefit from the upcoming environmental scenario than its Atlantic counterpart.

The previous research demonstrated that warming and ocean acidification (OA) affect the biochemical composition of Arctic (Spitsbergen; SP) and cold-temperate (Helgoland; HL) Saccharina latissima differently, suggesting ecotypic differentiation. This study analyses the responses to different partial pressures of CO2 (380, 800, and 1500 µatm pCO2) and temperature levels (SP population: 4, 10 °C; HL population: 10, 17 °C) on the photophysiology (O2 production, pigment composition, D1-protein content) and carbon assimilation [Rubisco content, carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCMs), growth rate] of both ecotypes. Elevated temperatures stimulated O2 production in both populations, and also led to an increase in pigment content and a deactivation of CCMs, as indicated by 13C isotopic discrimination of algal biomass (εp) in the HL population, which was not observed in SP thalli. In general, pCO2 effects were less pronounced than temperature effects. High pCO2 deactivated CCMs in both populations and produced a decrease in the Rubisco content of HL thalli, while it was unaltered in SP population. As a result, the growth rate of the Arctic ecotype increased at elevated pCO2 and higher temperatures and it remained unchanged in the HL population. Ecotypic differentiation was revealed by a significantly higher O2 production rate and an increase in Chl a, Rubisco, and D1 protein content in SP thalli, but a lower growth rate, in comparison to the HL population. We conclude that both populations differ in their sensitivity to changing temperatures and OA and that the Arctic population is more likely to benefit from the upcoming environmental scenario than its Atlantic counterpart.

Continue reading ‘Increased pCO2 and temperature reveal ecotypic differences in growth and photosynthetic performance of temperate and Arctic populations of Saccharina latissima’

Impacts des dépositions atmosphériques de fer sur les assemblages phytoplanctoniques et la production de diméthylsulfure dans le Pacifique Nord-Est contemporain et dans le contexte de l’acidification des océans (in English and French)

Phytoplankton growth is limited by low concentrations of iron (Fe) in about 40% of the world’s oceans. The northeast subarctic Pacific Ocean embodies one of these Fe-limited regions that are termed High Nutrient – Low Chlorophyll (HNLC). Its ecosystem is dominated by small phytoplankton cells, such as Prymnesiophyceae, and is characterized by weak summer concentrations of chlorophyll a and high concentrations of macronutrients. It has repeatedly been shown that Fe additions in HNLC zones, using various artificial forms of Fe (commonly FeSO4), stimulate the growth and modify the structure of planktonic communities by favoring the blooming of large phytoplankton cells such as diatoms. The impacts brought about on the planktonic communities by these Fe additions have the potential of influencing large-scale climate regulating mechanisms, namely the biological carbon pump and the oceanic production of dimethylsulfide (DMS). Dust arising from northern Chinese deserts is well recognized as an important albeit sporadic source of Fe for the northeast Pacific Ocean. Despite their potential importance, the direct influence of these dust deposition events on the planktonic ecosystem of the northeast Pacific has never been studied before. This represents a serious shortcoming considering that, Fe associated with dust is scantily soluble in seawater, the bioavailable proportion of Fe in dust remains unknown, and dust may exert an inhibiting effect on phytoplankton. My thesis thus proposes, firstly, to conduct avant-garde measurements of the fertilization effects of a natural Asian dust gradient on plankton communities of the northeast Pacific. My first experiment shows that the Fe contained in Asian dust is bioavailable and that a deposition event, equivalent to naturally occurring spring depositions in the northeast Pacific, may result in a significant stimulation of nutrient uptake and growth by phytoplankton. My results also demonstrate that the addition of 0,5 mg L-1 of dust may induce as much biomass accumulation as what is observed during large scale fertilizing experiments utilizing FeSO4. However, small-celled phytoplankton assemblages are stimulated by Fe fertilizations, more so through FeSO4 than through dust additions demonstrating the flaws of this proxy in accurately representing Asian dust. In a second step, I focused my attention on an alternative source of atmospheric Fe, specifically volcanic ash. My interest for this subject was instigated by observations of a spectacular bloom occurring in my study region, the northeast Pacific, and associated to the 2008 eruption of the Kasatochi volcano located on one of the Aleutian Islands. I quantified the direct effects of volcanic ash on the plankton community of the northeast Pacific. My results show that the Fe contained in these ashes is also bioavailable for phytoplankton and that this source of Fe may be as important as desert dust in regulating the growth of phytoplankton in this part of the global ocean on a millennial scale. Thirdly, I assessed the manner in which ocean acidification could modulate, on a short timescale, the responses of the plankton communities to natural Fe depositions highlighted in this thesis. In order to do so, I performed dust enrichments in seawater at the contemporary seawater pH of 8.0 and acidified to a pH of 7.8. My results show a reduction in phytoplankton growth rate in the acidified environment with no conspicuous changes to community structure. The additions of dust and ash, as well as the variations in pH, had little significant impacts on the production of DMS or its precursor dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). This lack of response could likely be attributable to the short timescale (4 days) of investigation carried out. As a whole, the results of this thesis show that Fe contained in various natural atmospheric sources is bioavailable to phytoplankton of the northeast Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, realistic deposition rates may distinctly stimulate phytoplankton growth in the first days following dust storms or volcanic eruptions. Finally, results from the multi-stressor experiments (Fe/acidification) I carried out suggest a demonstrable robustness of surface plankton communities to the pH reduction predicted before the turn of this century.

Continue reading ‘Impacts des dépositions atmosphériques de fer sur les assemblages phytoplanctoniques et la production de diméthylsulfure dans le Pacifique Nord-Est contemporain et dans le contexte de l’acidification des océans (in English and French)’

An ocean of troubles: advancing marine sociology

We advance marine sociology to analyze the human dimensions of ocean systems. Human societies are fundamentally linked to marine systems and are transforming oceanic conditions in dramatic ways, resulting in socio-ecological problems. Despite the great and important possibilities in this realm, these relationships are seldom studied within sociology. This article highlights the ecological foundations of human societies, emphasizing interactions with marine systems, and presents marine sociology as a valuable expansion of environmental sociological studies. This approach seeks to better integrate sociological and ecological sciences. We propose that social metabolic analysis serves as one useful theoretical framework for examining the socio-ecological interrelationships. The analysis focuses on the dynamics of ocean systems, social processes that are changing marine ecosystems, and the perennial interactions within and between these systems. We provide brief analyses of climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution, revealing how the modern socioeconomic order has created ecological rifts in marine ecosystems, and how these concerns reciprocally affect  social life.

Continue reading ‘An ocean of troubles: advancing marine sociology’

Decoupled carbonate chemistry controls on the incorporation of boron into Orbulina universa (update)

In order to fully constrain paleo-carbonate systems, proxies for two out of seven parameters, plus temperature and salinity, are required. The boron isotopic composition (δ11B) of planktonic foraminifera shells is a powerful tool for reconstructing changes in past surface ocean pH. As B(OH)4− is substituted into the biogenic calcite lattice in place of CO32−, and both borate and carbonate ions are more abundant at higher pH, it was suggested early on that B ∕ Ca ratios in biogenic calcite may serve as a proxy for [CO32−]. Although several recent studies have shown that a direct connection of B ∕ Ca to carbonate system parameters may be masked by other environmental factors in the field, there is ample evidence for a mechanistic relationship between B ∕ Ca and carbonate system parameters. Here, we focus on investigating the primary relationship to develop a mechanistic understanding of boron uptake.

Differentiating between the effects of pH and [CO32−] is problematic, as they co-vary closely in natural systems, so the major control on boron incorporation remains unclear. To deconvolve the effects of pH and [CO32−] and to investigate their impact on the B ∕ Ca ratio and δ11B, we conducted culture experiments with the planktonic foraminifer Orbulina universa in manipulated culture media: constant pH (8.05), but changing [CO32−] (238, 286 and 534 µmol kg−1 CO32−) and at constant [CO32−] (276 ± 19.5 µmol kg−1) and varying pH (7.7, 7.9 and 8.05). Measurements of the isotopic composition of boron and the B ∕ Ca ratio were performed simultaneously using a femtosecond laser ablation system coupled to a MC-ICP-MS (multiple-collector inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer). Our results show that, as expected, δ11B is controlled by pH but it is also modulated by [CO32−]. On the other hand, the B ∕ Ca ratio is driven by [HCO3−], independently of pH. This suggests that B ∕ Ca ratios in foraminiferal calcite can possibly be used as a second, independent, proxy for complete paleo-carbonate system reconstructions. This is discussed in light of recent literature demonstrating that the primary relationship between B ∕ Ca and [HCO3−] can be obscured by other environmental parameters.

Continue reading ‘Decoupled carbonate chemistry controls on the incorporation of boron into Orbulina universa (update)’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book