Effects of ocean acidification and hydrodynamic conditions on carbon metabolism and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fluxes in seagrass populations

Global change has been acknowledged as one of the main threats to the biosphere and its provision of ecosystem services, especially in marine ecosystems. Seagrasses play a critical ecological role in coastal ecosystems, but their responses to ocean acidification (OA) and climate change are not well understood. There have been previous studies focused on the effects of OA, but the outcome of interactions with co-factors predicted to alter during climate change still needs to be addressed. For example, the impact of higher CO2 and different hydrodynamic regimes on seagrass performance remains unknown. We studied the effects of OA under different current velocities on productivity of the seagrass Zostera noltei, using changes in dissolved oxygen as a proxy for the seagrass carbon metabolism, and release of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in a four-week experiment using an open-water outdoor mesocosm. Under current pH conditions, increasing current velocity had a positive effect on productivity, but this depended on shoot density. However, this positive effect of current velocity disappeared under OA conditions. OA conditions led to a significant increase in gross production rate and respiration, suggesting that Z. noltei is carbon-limited under the current inorganic carbon concentration of seawater. In addition, an increase in non-structural carbohydrates was found, which may lead to better growing conditions and higher resilience in seagrasses subjected to environmental stress. Regarding DOC flux, a direct and positive relationship was found between current velocity and DOC release, both under current pH and OA conditions. We conclude that OA and high current velocity may lead to favourable growth scenarios for Z. noltei populations, increasing their productivity, non-structural carbohydrate concentrations and DOC release. Our results add new dimensions to predictions on how seagrass ecosystems will respond to climate change, with important implications for the resilience and conservation of these threatened ecosystems.

Egea L. G., Jiménez-Ramos R., Hernández I., Bouma T. J. & Brun F. G., 2018. Effects of ocean acidification and hydrodynamic conditions on carbon metabolism and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) fluxes in seagrass populations. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0192402. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0192402. Article.

 

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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