Probabilistic risk assessment of the effect of acidified seawater on development stages of sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis)

Growing evidence indicates that ocean acidification has a significant impact on calcifying marine organisms. However, there is a lack of exposure risk assessments for aquatic organisms under future environmentally relevant ocean acidification scenarios. The objective of this study was to investigate the probabilistic effects of acidified seawater on the life-stage response dynamics of fertilization, larvae growth, and larvae mortality of the green sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis). We incorporated the regulation of primary body cavity (PBC) pH in response to seawater pH into the assessment by constructing an explicit model to assess effective life-stage response dynamics to seawater or PBC pH levels. The likelihood of exposure to ocean acidification was also evaluated by addressing the uncertainties of the risk characterization. For unsuccessful fertilization, the estimated 50% effect level of seawater acidification (EC50 SW ) was 0.55 ± 0.014 (mean ± SE) pH units. This life stage was more sensitive than growth inhibition and mortality, for which the EC50 values were 1.13 and 1.03 pH units, respectively. The estimated 50% effect levels of PBC pH (EC50 PBC ) were 0.99 ± 0.05 and 0.88 ± 0.006 pH units for growth inhibition and mortality, respectively. We also predicted the probability distributions for seawater and PBC pH levels in 2100. The level of unsuccessful fertilization had 50 and 90% probability risks of 5.07–24.51 (95% CI) and 0–6.95%, respectively. We conclude that this probabilistic risk analysis model is parsimonious enough to quantify the multiple vulnerabilities of the green sea urchin while addressing the systemic effects of ocean acidification. This study found a high potential risk of acidification affecting the fertilization of the green sea urchin, whereas there was no evidence for adverse effects on growth and mortality resulting from exposure to the predicted acidified environment.

Chen W. Y. & Lin H.-C., in press. Probabilistic risk assessment of the effect of acidified seawater on development stages of sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis). Environmental Science and Pollution Research. Article (subscription required).

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