Effects of ocean acidification on acid-base physiology, skeleton properties, and metal contamination in two echinoderms from vent sites in Deception Island, Antarctica

Highlights

  • Acid-base characteristics of adult Antarctic echinoderms are similar to those of tropical and temperate echionderms
  • Skeleton properties of both species were weaker than those of tropical and temperate echinoderms
  • Reduced seawater pH and metals had no impact on the skeleton mechanical properties of the two investigated species
  • Reduced pH was correlated to increased contamination by most metals but this relation was weak

Abstract

Antarctic surface waters are expected to be the first to experience severe ocean acidification (OA) with carbonate undersaturation and large decreases in pH forecasted before the end of this century. Due to the long stability in environmental conditions and the relatively low daily and seasonal variations to which they are exposed, Antarctic marine organisms, especially those with a supposedly poor machinery to eliminate CO2 and protons and with a heavily calcified skeleton like echinoderms, are hypothesized as highly vulnerable to these environmental shifts. The opportunities offered by the natural pH gradient generated by vent activities in Deception Island caldera, Western Antarctic Peninsula, were used to investigate for the first time the acid-base physiologies, the impact of OA on the skeleton and the impact of pH on metal accumulation in the Antarctic sea star Odontaster validus and sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri. The two species were sampled in four stations within the caldera, two at pH (total scale) 8.0- 8.1 and two at reduced pH 7.8. Measured variables were pH, alkalinity, and dissolved inorganic carbon of the coelomic fluid; characteristic fracture force, stress and Young’s modulus using Weibull statistics and Cd, Cu, Fe, Pb and Zn concentrations in the integument, gonads and digestive system. Recorded acid-base characteristics of both studied species fit in the general picture deduced from temperate and tropical sea stars and sea urchins but conditions and possibly confounding factors, principally food availability and quality, in the studied stations prevented definitive conclusions. Reduced seawater pH 7.8 and metals had almost no impact on the skeleton mechanical properties of the two investigated species despite very high Cd concentrations in O. validus integument. Reduced pH was correlated to increased contamination by most metals but this relation was weak. Translocation and caging experiments taking into account food parameters are proposed to better understand future processes linked to ocean acidification and metal contamination in Antarctic echinoderms.

Di Giglio S., Agüera A., Pernet Ph., M’Zoudi S., Angulo-Preckler C., Avila C. & Dubois Ph., in press. Effects of ocean acidification on acid-base physiology, skeleton properties, and metal contamination in two echinoderms from vent sites in Deception Island, Antarctica. Science of The Total Environment. Article (subscription required).

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