Systems biology and the seagrass paradox: adaptation, acclimation, and survival of marine angiosperms in a changing ocean climate

Predicting adaptive fitness to any environment requires mechanistic understanding of environmental influence on metabolic networks that control energy assimilation, growth, and reproduction. Although the potential impacts of environment on gene products are myriad, important phenotypic responses are often regulated by a few key points in metabolic networks where externally supplied resources or physiological reaction substrates limit reaction kinetics. Environmental resources commonly limiting seagrass productivity, survival, and growth include light and CO2 availability that control carbon assimilation and sucrose formation. Phosphate availability can also be important in oligotrophic tropical environments, particularly in the presence of carbonate sediments. Temperature and macronutrient oversupply (eutrophication) can act as confounding stressors, particularly in temperate environments. Photoacclimation can be regulated by electron transport pathways residing in the chloroplast stroma, but stress responses are often manifest by the expression of generalized stress response proteins, both of which appear to be affected by temperature and CO2 availability. A systems approach is employed to explore (1) the responses of seagrasses to the combined impacts of environmental limiting factors that control fundamental physiological processes leading to whole-plant performance; (2) sediment diagenetic processes that facilitate nutrient remineralization, carbon sequestration, and toxin neutralization; (3) interactions with other organisms induced by trophic cascades; and (4) impacts of human-induced climate change that affect system dynamics at numerous points in the network.

Zimmerman R.C., 2017. Systems biology and the seagrass paradox: adaptation, acclimation, and survival of marine angiosperms in a changing ocean climate. In: Kumar M. & Ralph P. (Eds.), Systems biology of marine ecosystems, pp 167-188. Springer, Cham. Chapter (restricted access).

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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