Effects of in situ CO2 enrichment on epibiont settlement on artificial substrata within a Posidonia oceanica meadow

Highlights

  • Ocean acidification (OA) may cause community shifts by effecting early life stages.
  • pH was lowered in situ and maintained as an offset within a FOCE setup.
  • Settlement/colonization of molluscs and peracarid crustaceans were robust to OA.
  • Crustose coralline algae and calcifying polychaetes were vulnerable at early life.

Abstract

Alterations to colonization or early post-settlement stages may cause the reorganization of communities under future ocean acidification conditions. Yet, this hypothesis has been little tested by in situ pH manipulation. A Free Ocean Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FOCE) system was used to lower pH by a ~ 0.3 unit offset within a partially enclosed portion (1.7 m3) of a Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow (11 m depth) between 21 June and 3 November 2014. Epibiont colonization and early post settlement stages were assessed within the FOCE setup, as part of the larger community-level study, to better understand the outcome for a multispecies assemblage and the ecological processes that result in reported community shifts under altered carbonate chemistry. Two types of artificial collectors (tiles and scourers) were placed within three treatments: a pH-manipulated enclosure, an un-manipulated control enclosure, and an open plot in the ambient meadow. Tiles and scourers were collected after one to four months. Additionally, to see whether the outcome differed for communities in a later successional stage, previously settled scourer-collectors were also placed in the same three treatments. Enclosures acted to reduce settlement and migrant colonization. Scourers deployed for one to four months within the open-plot contained a community assemblage that could be distinguished from the assemblages within the enclosures. However, a comparison of enclosure assemblages on tiles showed evidence of a pH effect. There was lowered coverage of crustose coralline algae and fewer calcareous tube-forming polychaetes (Spirorbis sp. and Spirobranchus sp.) on tiles placed in the pH-manipulated enclosure compared to the un-manipulated enclosure. For assemblages in scourer collectors, shared and common taxa, in all treatments, were invertebrate polychaetes Psamathe fusca, Sphaerosyllis sp., Chrysopetalum sp., arthropods Harpacticoida, and Amphipoda, and the juvenile bivalve Lyonsia sp. Similar organism composition and abundance, as well as taxonomic richness and evenness, were found in scourers from both enclosures. Pre-settled scourers contained greater numbers of individuals and more calcified members, but the assemblage, as well as the growth rate of a juvenile bivalve Lyonsia sp., appeared unaffected by a two-month exposure to lowered pH and calcium carbonate saturation state. Results from this case study support the hypothesis that early stages of specific calcifiers (crustose coralline algae and calcareous tube-forming polychaetes) are sensitive to near future ocean acidification conditions yet suggest that negative effects on sessile micro-invertebrate assemblages will be minimal.

Cox T. E., Díaz-Castañeda V., Martin S., Alliouane S., Mahacek P., Le Fur A., Gattuso J.-P. & Gazeau F., 2017. Effects of in situ CO2 enrichment on epibiont settlement on artificial substrata within a Posidonia oceanica meadow. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 497: 197–211. Article (subscription required).

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book