Archive for September, 2017



Sponge bioerosion on changing reefs: ocean warming poses physiological constraints to the success of a photosymbiotic excavating sponge

Excavating sponges are prominent bioeroders on coral reefs that in comparison to other benthic organisms may suffer less or may even benefit from warmer, more acidic and more eutrophic waters. Here, the photosymbiotic excavating sponge Cliona orientalis from the Great Barrier Reef was subjected to a prolonged simulation of both global and local environmental change: future seawater temperature, partial pressure of carbon dioxide (as for 2100 summer conditions under “business-as-usual” emissions), and diet supplementation with particulate organics. The individual and combined effects of the three factors on the bioerosion rates, metabolic oxygen and carbon flux, biomass change and survival of the sponge were monitored over the height of summer. Diet supplementation accelerated bioerosion rates. Acidification alone did not have a strong effect on total bioerosion or survival rates, yet it co-occurred with reduced heterotrophy. Warming above 30 °C (+2.7 °C above the local maximum monthly mean) caused extensive bleaching, lower bioerosion, and prevailing mortality, overriding the other factors and suggesting a strong metabolic dependence of the sponge on its resident symbionts. The growth, bioerosion capacity and likelihood of survival of C. orientalis and similar photosymbiotic excavating sponges could be substantially reduced rather than increased on end-of-the-century reefs under “business-as-usual” emission profiles.

Continue reading ‘Sponge bioerosion on changing reefs: ocean warming poses physiological constraints to the success of a photosymbiotic excavating sponge’

2018 OCB Activity solicitation

The Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) Program is soliciting proposals for OCB activities that will take place during the 2018 calendar year.  OCB seeks proposals for scoping workshops and smaller group activities in OCB-relevant research areas, including ocean acidification.

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Ocean acidification more rapid in coastal oceans

New research under the joint NCCOS Competitive Research Program and NOAA Ocean Acidification Program finds the combined effects of anthropogenic and biological carbon dioxide (CO2) inputs may lead to more rapid acidification in Chesapeake Bay and other coastal water compared to the open ocean. The results indicate that eutrophication can exacerbate ocean acidification (OA) where animal and plant respiration contributes a far greater acidification in the coastal oceans relative to the open ocean.

The study, led by Dr. Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware, is part of a NCCOS-sponsored project team studying interactions between OA and eutrophication in estuaries. “The study shows for the first time that the oxidation of hydrogen sulfide and ammonia from the bottom waters could be a major contributor to lower pH in coastal oceans and may lead to more rapid acidification in coastal waters compared to the open ocean” says Dr. Cai, in the online University of Delaware’s UDaily. Increased acidification can dissolve the calcium carbonate in the shells of valuable clams, oysters, and certain plankton and lead to poor acid buffering capacity of the water.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification more rapid in coastal oceans’

Lobster experiments help predict future for $1B fishery

St. Andrews Biological Station scientists are studying effects of climate on lobster eggs and offspring

Researchers in Saint Andrews are trying to predict how climate change will affect the future for lobster by manipulating the conditions they face in several experimental tanks.

More than 100 female lobsters are undergoing a range of experiments at the St. Andrews Biological Station.

In a dark, buzzing room, three Department of Fisheries and Oceans researchers are mirroring potential changes lobsters will face with changes in ocean temperature and acidification and with diet limitations.

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Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles

The proportion of body mass devoted to skeleton in marine invertebrates decreases along latitudinal gradients from large proportions in the tropics to small proportions in polar regions. A historical hypothesis—that latitudinal differences in shell production costs explain these trends—remains untested. Using field-collected specimens spanning a 79°N to 68°S latitudinal gradient (16,300 km), we conducted a taxonomically controlled evaluation of energetic costs of shell production as a proportion of the total energy budget in mollusks. Shell production cost was fairly low across latitudes at <10% of the energy budget and predominately <5% in gastropods and <4% in bivalves. Throughout life, shell cost tended to be lower in tropical species and increased slightly toward the poles. However, shell cost also varied with life stage, with the greatest costs found in young tropical gastropods. Low shell production costs on the energy budget suggest that shell cost may play only a small role in influencing proportional skeleton size gradients across latitudes relative to other ecological factors, such as predation in present-day oceans. However, any increase in the cost of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) deposition, including from ocean acidification, may lead to a projected ~50 to 70% increase in the proportion of the total energy budget required for shell production for a doubling of the CaCO3 deposition cost. Changes in energy budget allocation to shell cost would likely alter ecological trade-offs between calcification and other drivers, such as predation, in marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles’

Late-summer biogeochemistry in the Mertz Polynya: East Antarctica

A marked reconfiguration of the Mertz Polynya following the 2010 calving of the Mertz Glacier Tongue has been associated with a decrease in the size and activity of the polynya. We report observations of the oceanic carbonate (CO2) system in late-summer 2013, the third post-calving summer season. Estimates of seasonal net community production (NCP) based on inorganic carbon deficits and the oxygen-argon ratio indicate that the waters on the shelf to the east of Commonwealth Bay (adjacent to the Mertz Glacier) remain productive compared to pre-calving conditions. The input of residual or excess alkalinity from melting sea ice is found to contribute to the seasonal enhancement of carbonate saturation state and pH in shelf waters. Mean rates of NCP in 2012–2013 are more than twice as large as those observed in the pre-calving summers of 2001 and 2008 and suggest that the new (post-calving) configuration of the polynya favors enhanced net community production and a stronger surface ocean sink for atmospheric CO2 due at least in part to the redistribution of sea ice and associated changes in summer surface stratification.

Continue reading ‘Late-summer biogeochemistry in the Mertz Polynya: East Antarctica’

Art and senses in the service of science

By designing experiments directly targeting our values scientists can achieve more effective scientific communication. Recent research at the University of Gothenburg has shown that art and emotions can help scientists play a key role in getting people to take action based on knowledge.

Marine biologist Sam Dupont during the school project “I am the Ocean”.

The increasing destruction and pollution of the ocean subsequently threatens humanity by putting at risk the countless services provided by marine ecosystems. In the face of global changes such as warming and ocean acidification, only collective action can lead to the needed mitigation and adaptation measures.

When it comes to the responsibility of society for causing these changes, the scientific evidence is strong. But it is complicated by competing values, uncertainties and complexity in causation. The scientific community is still struggling to deliver strong messages to citizens and policymakers.

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Homarus gammarus (Crustacea: Decapoda) larvae under an ocean acidification scenario: responses across different levels of biological organization

The present study evaluated the effects of exposure to different target pCO2 levels: control (C: 370μatm, pH = 8.15) and ocean acidification (OA: 710μatm, pH = 7.85) on development and biochemical responses related with oxidative stress and energy metabolism during the crustacean Homarus gammarus (L.) larval development, integrating different levels of biological organization. After hatching in the laboratory, larvae from the same female brood were exposed to the described conditions from hatching until reaching Stage III (last larval stage – 11 days). H. gammarus larvae demonstrated some susceptibility when addressing the predicted pCO2 levels for 2100. Further analysis at the biochemical and physiological level highlighted the occurrence of oxidative stress in the OA scenario (Superoxide Dismutase reduction and higher DNA damage) that was followed by developmental effects, increased inter-moult period from SII to SIII and reduced growth. The extended exposure to these conditions may affect organisms’ key life-cycle functions such as physiological resistance, growth, sexual maturation, or reproduction with implications in their future fitness and population dynamics.

Continue reading ‘Homarus gammarus (Crustacea: Decapoda) larvae under an ocean acidification scenario: responses across different levels of biological organization’

Acidification mediated by a river plume and coastal upwelling on a fringing reef at the east coast of Hainan Island, Northern South China Sea

We investigated the dynamics of carbonate system which was greatly modulated by a river plume and coastal upwelling in July 2014 and July 2015 at the east coast of Hainan Island where a fringing reef distributes inshore. By using a three end-member mixing model, we semiquantitatively estimated the removal of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) mediated by biological production in the river plume and upwelled water to be 13 ± 17 and 15 ± 16 μmol kg−1, respectively. The enhanced organic production was mainly responsible for these DIC consumptions in both two regimes, however, nearly a half of DIC removal was attributed to biocalcification in the plume system while it was negligible in the upwelling system. Furthermore, the modeled results over reefs revealed that river plume and coastal upwelling were two major threats of acidification to coral communities at the east coast of Hainan Island during cruises. In comparison, the biological contribution to acidification was limited for balancing between organic production and biocalcification during July 2014 cruise, whereas the acidification was greatly intensified by organic degradation during July 2015 cruise. It was verified that naturally local acidification (physical and biological processes) played a major role in great pH decreases on a short-term scale, leading to coastal waters more vulnerable to anthropogenic “ocean acidification” (uptake of atmospheric CO2) by reducing buffering capacity of waters. Finally, effects of acidification associated with other local threats on a fringing reef were further depicted with a conceptual model.

Continue reading ‘Acidification mediated by a river plume and coastal upwelling on a fringing reef at the east coast of Hainan Island, Northern South China Sea’

Tidally-induced variations of pH at the head of the Laurentian Channel

The head of the Laurentian Channel (LC) is a very dynamic region of exceptional biological richness. To evaluate the impact of freshwater discharge, tidal mixing, and biological activity on the pH of surface waters in this region, a suite of physical and chemical variables was measured throughout the water column over two tidal cycles. The relative contributions to the water column of the four source-water types that converge in this region were evaluated using an optimum multi-parameter algorithm (OMP). Results of the OMP analysis were used to reconstruct the water column properties assuming conservative mixing, and the difference between the model properties and field measurements served to identify factors that control the pH of the surface waters. These surface waters are generally undersaturated with respect to aragonite, mostly due to the intrusion of waters from the Upper St. Lawrence Estuary and the Saguenay Fjord. The presence of a cold intermediate layer impedes the upwelling of the deeper, hypoxic, lower pH and aragonite-undersaturated waters of the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary to depths shallower than 50 meters.

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