Archive for March, 2017

Biological responses of sharks to ocean acidification

Sharks play a key role in the structure of marine food webs, but are facing major threats due to overfishing and habitat degradation. Although sharks are also assumed to be at relatively high risk from climate change due to a low intrinsic rate of population growth and slow rates of evolution, ocean acidification (OA) has not, until recently, been considered a direct threat. New studies have been evaluating the potential effects of end-of-century elevated CO2 levels on sharks and their relatives’ early development, physiology and behaviour. Here, we review those findings and use a meta-analysis approach to quantify the overall direction and magnitude of biological responses to OA in the species of sharks that have been investigated to date. While embryo survival and development time are mostly unaffected by elevated CO2, there are clear effects on body condition, growth, aerobic potential and behaviour (e.g. lateralization, hunting and prey detection). Furthermore, studies to date suggest that the effects of OA could be as substantial as those due to warming in some species. A major limitation is that all past studies have involved relatively sedentary, benthic sharks that are capable of buccal ventilation—no studies have investigated pelagic sharks that depend on ram ventilation. Future research should focus on species with different life strategies (e.g. pelagic, ram ventilators), climate zones (e.g. polar regions), habitats (e.g. open ocean), and distinct phases of ontogeny in order to fully predict how OA and climate change will impact higher-order predators and therefore marine ecosystem dynamics.

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Changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the Mauritanian-Cape Verde upwelling region between 2005 and 2012

Coastal upwelling along the eastern margins of major ocean basins represent regions of large economic importance due to the high biological productivity. However, the physical forcing of upwelling processes that favor the production in these areas are being affected by global warming, which will modify the intensity of the upwelling and, consequently, the carbon dioxide cycle. For this reason, the role of observations in addressing any climate change impacts on the global carbon cycle in areas of upwelling is of great importance. Monthly high resolution surface experimental data for temperature and partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the Mauritanian-Cape Verde upwelling region from 2005 to 2012 are shown. This data set provides direct evidence of seasonal and interannual changes in the physical and biochemical processes. They confirmed an upwelling intensification and an increase in the CO2 outgassing of 1 Tg a year in one of the four most important upwelling regions of the planet due to wind increase, even when primary production seems to also be reinforced. This increase in CO2 intake together with the observed decrease in sea surface temperature at the location of the Mauritanian Cape Blanc, 21º N, produced a pH decrease of −0.003 ± 0.001 per year.

Continue reading ‘Changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the Mauritanian-Cape Verde upwelling region between 2005 and 2012’

How do higher CO2 levels impact marine life?

As the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere continues to climb, a group of researchers at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are investigating how this change will impact the Earth system, with a focus on oceans and marine life.

Atmospheric CO2 exchanges with carbon dissolved in the surface ocean, depending on the relative concentrations of each. This gas exchange is similar to the process that allows ‘bubblers’ in fish tanks exchange gases for fish to thrive. As CO2 enters the surface ocean, the acidity of surface seawater generally increases, a process commonly referred to as ocean acidification.

With support from World Surf League PURE, Lamont paleoceanographer Bärbel Hönisch and postdoctoral researcher Kelsey Dyez are studying the respective effects of ocean warming and acidification on plankton collected from a global suite of sediment cores. The time period of this study covers the last ice age (characterized by colder and more alkaline seawater) and into the current warm period (warmer and more acidic seawater).

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Core-top calibration of B/Ca in Pacific Ocean Neogloboquadrina incompta and Globigerina bulloides as a surface water carbonate system proxy

Practical methods for reconstructing past ocean carbonate chemistry are needed to study past periods of ocean acidification and improve understanding of the marine carbonate system’s role in the global climate cycles. Planktic foraminiferal B/Ca may fill this role, but requires better understanding and improved proxy calibrations. We used Pacific Ocean core-top sediments to generate new calibrations of the B/Ca proxy for past carbonate system parameters in two upwelling/subpolar species of asymbiotic planktic foraminifera (Globigerina bulloides and Neogloboquadrina incompta ). Both species show significant positive correlation of B/Ca with calcite saturation (Ωcalcite) and carbonate ion concentration ([View the MathML source]) across a broad range of environmental conditions. This suggests a calcification rate control on B/Ca incorporation (as Ωcalcite regulates calcification rate), in agreement with recent inorganic calcite studies. This is also consistent with a surface entrapment model of trace element incorporation into CaCO3. In neither species is B/Ca significantly correlated with pH, suggesting that pH does not directly regulate boron incorporation, and that calculation of pH directly from foraminiferal B/Ca is not suitable. Correlations between B/Ca and [B(OH)4−], [B(OH)4−/HCO3−], and [B(OH)4−]/DIC) are weaker than with Ωcalcite. Boron partition coefficients View the MathML source show little or no correlation with [CO32−] or temperature and vary widely, providing no support for application of KD to calculate carbonate system parameters from B/Ca. We also discuss potential effects of depth-related dissolution, temperature, and salinity on B/Ca. These empirical calibrations linking foraminiferal calcite B/Ca with Ωcalcite provide a strong tool for reconstructing the past ocean carbonate system and improve our understanding of the proxy’s geochemical basis.

Continue reading ‘Core-top calibration of B/Ca in Pacific Ocean Neogloboquadrina incompta and Globigerina bulloides as a surface water carbonate system proxy’

Alleviation of mercury toxicity to a marine copepod under multigenerational exposure by ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA) may potentially modify the responses of aquatic organisms to other environmental stressors including metals. In this study, we investigated the effects of near-future OA (pCO2 1000 μatm) and mercury (Hg) on the development and reproduction of marine copepod Tigriopus japonicus under multigenerational life-cycle exposure. Metal accumulation as well as seven life history traits (survival rate, sex ratio, developmental time from nauplius to copepodite, developmental time from nauplius to adult, number of clutches, number of nauplii/clutch and fecundity) was quantified for each generation. Hg exposure alone evidently suppressed the number of nauplii/clutch, whereas single OA exposure negligibly affected the seven traits of copepods. However, OA exposure significantly alleviated the Hg inhibitory effects on number of nauplii/clutch and fecundity, which could be explained by the reduced Hg accumulation under OA. Such combined exposure also significantly shortened the development time. Thus, in contrast to earlier findings for other toxic metals, this study demonstrated that OA potentially mitigated the Hg toxicity to some important life traits in marine copepods during multigenerational exposure.

Continue reading ‘Alleviation of mercury toxicity to a marine copepod under multigenerational exposure by ocean acidification’

High levels of solar radiation offset impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying and non-calcifying strains of Emiliania huxleyi

Coccolithophores, a globally distributed group of marine phytoplankton, showed diverse responses to ocean acidification (OA) and to combinations of OA with other environmental factors. While their growth can be enhanced and calcification be hindered by OA under constant indoor light, fluctuation of solar radiation with ultraviolet irradiances might offset such effects. In this study, when a calcifying and a non-calcifying strain of Emiliania huxleyi were grown at 2 CO2 concentrations (low CO2 [LC]: 395 µatm; high CO2 [HC]: 1000 µatm) under different levels of incident solar radiation in the presence of ultraviolet radiation (UVR), HC and increased levels of solar radiation acted synergistically to enhance the growth in the calcifying strain but not in the non-calcifying strain. HC enhanced the particulate organic carbon (POC) and nitrogen (PON) productions in both strains, and this effect was more obvious at high levels of solar radiation. While HC decreased calcification at low solar radiation levels, it did not cause a significant effect at high levels of solar radiation, implying that a sufficient supply of light energy can offset the impact of OA on the calcifying strain. Our data suggest that increased light exposure, which is predicted to happen with shoaling of the upper mixing layer due to progressive warming, could counteract the impact of OA on coccolithophores distributed within this layer.

Continue reading ‘High levels of solar radiation offset impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying and non-calcifying strains of Emiliania huxleyi’

Climate change can cause complex responses in Baltic Sea macroalgae: A systematic review

Estuarine macroalgae are important primary producers in aquatic ecosystems, and often foundation species providing structurally complex habitat. Climate change alters many abiotic factors that affect their long-term persistence and distribution. Here, we review the existing scientific literature on the tolerance of key macroalgal species in the Baltic Sea, the world’s largest brackish water body. Elevated temperature is expected to intensify coastal eutrophication, further promoting growth of opportunistic, filamentous species, especially green algae, which are often species associated with intensive filamentous algal blooms. Declining salinities will push the distributions of marine species towards south, which may alter the Baltic Sea community compositions towards a more limnic state. Together with increasing eutrophication trends this may cause losses in marine-originating foundation species such as Fucus, causing severe biodiversity impacts. Experimental results on ocean acidification effects on macroalgae are mixed, with only few studies conducted in the Baltic Sea. We conclude that climate change can alter the structure and functioning of macroalgal ecosystems especially in the northern Baltic coastal areas, and can potentially act synergistically with eutrophication. We briefly discuss potential adaptation measures.

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Understanding feedbacks between ocean acidification and coral reef metabolism

Biogeochemical feedbacks from benthic metabolism have been hypothesized as a potential mechanism to buffer some effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs. The article in JGR-Oceans by DeCarlo et al. demonstrates the importance of benthic community health on this feedback from Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea.

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Pacific leaders tackle ocean acidification

If the land is well and the sea is well, the people will thrive. This adage is relevant now more than ever as climate change is encroaching on our shores.

Leaders from around the Pacific have joined in to tackle the issue of climate change specifically focusing on ocean acidification. Last week, was the opening of the New Zealand Pacific Partnership on Ocean Acidification (P.P.O.A) project and the Tokelau Project Inception Workshop at Taumeasina Island Resort.

The New Zealand Pacific Partnership on Ocean Acidification (P.P.O.A) project is a collaborative effort between the Secretariat  of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the university of the South Pacific, and the Pacific Community which aims to build resilience to ocean acidification in Pacific Island communities and ecosystems, with financial support form the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Government of Monaco.

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Effects of CO2 concentration on a late summer surface sea ice community

Annual fast ice at Scott Base (Antarctica) in late summer contained a high biomass surface community of mixed phytoflagellates, dominated by the dinoflagellate, Polarella glacialis. At this time of the year, ice temperatures rise close to melting point and salinities drop to less than 20. At the same time, pH levels can rise above 9 and nutrients can become limiting. In January 2014, the sea ice microbial community from the top 30 cm of the ice was exposed to a gradient of pH and CO2 (5 treatments) that ranged from 8.87 to 7.12 and 5–215 µmol CO2 kg−1, respectively, and incubated in situ. While growth rates were reduced at the highest and lowest pH, the differences were not significant. Likewise, there were no significant differences in maximum quantum yield of PSII (Fv/Fm) or relative maximum electron transfer rates (rETRmax) among treatments. In a parallel experiment, a CO2 gradient of 26–230 µmol CO2 kg−1 (5 treatments) was tested, keeping pH constant. In this experiment, growth rates increased by approximately 40% with increasing CO2, although differences among treatments were not significant.. As in the previous experiment, there was no significant response in Fv/Fm or rETRmax. A synchronous grazing dilution experiment found grazing rates to be inconclusive These results suggest that the summer sea ice brine communities were not limited by in situ CO2 concentrations and were not adversely affected by pH values down to 7.1.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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