Archive for the 'Science' Category

Hypoxia and acidification, individually and in combination, disrupt herbivory and reduce survivorship of the gastropod, Lacuna vincta

Acidification and deoxygenation are two consequences of climate change that also co-occur in eutrophied coastal zones and can have deleterious effects on marine life. While the effects of hypoxia on marine herbivores have been well-studied, how ocean acidification combined with hypoxia affects herbivory is poorly understood. This study examined how herbivory and survival by the gastropod Lacuna vincta grazing on the macroalgae Ulva rigida was influenced by hypoxia and ocean acidification, alone and in combination, with and without food limitation. Experiments exposed L. vincta to a range of environmentally realistic dissolved oxygen (0.7 – 8 mg L–1) and pH (7.3 – 8.0 total scale) conditions for 3 – 72 h, with and without a starvation period and quantified herbivory and survival. While acidified conditions (pH < 7.4) reduced herbivory when combined with food limitation, low oxygen conditions (< 4 mg L–1) reduced herbivory and survival regardless of food supply. When L. vincta were starved and grazed in acidified conditions herbivory was additively reduced, whereas starvation and hypoxia synergistically reduced grazing rates. Overall, low oxygen had a more inhibitory effect on herbivory than low pH. Shorter exposure times (9, 6, and 3 h) were required to reduce grazing at lower DO levels (∼2.4, ∼1.6, and ∼0.7 mg L–1, respectively). Herbivory ceased entirely following a three-hour exposure to DO of 0.7 mg L–1 suggesting that episodes of diurnal hypoxia disrupt grazing by these gastropods. The suppression of herbivory in response to acidified and hypoxic conditions could create a positive feedback loop that promotes ‘green tides’ whereby reduced grazing facilitates the overgrowth of macroalgae that cause nocturnal acidification and hypoxia, further disrupting herbivory and promoting the growth of macroalgae. Such feedback loops could have broad implications for estuarine ecosystems where L. vincta is a dominant macroalgal grazer and will intensify as climate change accelerates.

Continue reading ‘Hypoxia and acidification, individually and in combination, disrupt herbivory and reduce survivorship of the gastropod, Lacuna vincta’

Carbonate chemistry dynamics in shellfish farming areas along the Chilean coast: natural ranges and biological implications

The increasing shellfish aquaculture requires knowledge about nearshore environmental variability to manage sustainably and create climate change adaptation strategies. We used data from mooring time series and in situ sampling to characterize oceanographic and carbonate system variability in three bivalve aquaculture areas located along a latitudinal gradient off the Humboldt Current System. Our results showed pHT <8 in most coastal sites and occasionally below 7.5 during austral spring–summer in the lower (−30°S) and central (−37°S) latitudes, related to upwelling. Farmed mussels were exposed to undersaturated (Ωarag < 1) and hypoxic (<2 ml l−1) waters during warm seasons at −37°S, while in the higher latitude (43°S) undersaturated waters were only detected during colder seasons, associated with freshwater runoff. We suggest that both Argopecten purpuratus farmed at −30°S and Mytilus chilensis farmed at −43°S may enhance their growth during summer due to higher temperatures, lower pCO2, and oversaturated waters. In contrast, Mytilus galloprovincialis farmed at 37°S grows better during spring–summer, following higher temperatures and high pCO2. This knowledge is relevant for aquaculture, but it must be improved using high-resolution time series and in situ experimentation with farmed species to aid their adaptation to climate change and ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Carbonate chemistry dynamics in shellfish farming areas along the Chilean coast: natural ranges and biological implications’

The Northeast Atlantic is running out of excess carbonate in the horizon of cold-water corals communities

The oceanic uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted by human activities alters the seawater carbonate system. Here, the chemical status of the Northeast Atlantic is examined by means of a high-quality database of carbon variables based on the GO-SHIP A25 section (1997–2018). The increase of atmospheric CO2 leads to an increase in ocean anthropogenic carbon (Cant) and a decrease in carbonate that is unequivocal in the upper and mid-layers (0–2,500 m depth). In the mid-layer, the carbonate content in the Northeast Atlantic is maintained by the interplay between the northward spreading of recently conveyed Mediterranean Water with excess of carbonate and the arrival of subpolar-origin waters close to carbonate undersaturation. In this study we show a progression to undersaturation with respect to aragonite that could compromise the conservation of the habitats and ecosystem services developed by benthic marine calcifiers inhabiting that depth-range, such as the cold-water corals (CWC) communities. For each additional ppm in atmospheric pCO2 the waters surrounding CWC communities lose carbonate at a rate of − 0.17 ± 0.02 μmol kg−1 ppm−1. The accomplishment of global climate policies to limit global warming below 1.5–2 ℃ will avoid the exhaustion of excess carbonate in the Northeast Atlantic.

Continue reading ‘The Northeast Atlantic is running out of excess carbonate in the horizon of cold-water corals communities’

Evidence for stage-based larval vulnerability and resilience to acidification in Crassostrea virginica

Using image analysis of scanning electron micrographs (SEMs), we compared differences in growth of D-stage veligers [i.e. prodissoconch I and II (PI and PII) larvae] of eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica grown in mesohaline water under high- and low-CO2 conditions. We found SEMs to reveal no evidence of dissolution or shell structure deformity for larval shells in either of the CO2 treatments but detected prominent growth lines in the PII regions of larval shells. The number of growth lines closely approximated the duration of the experiment, suggesting that growth lines are generated daily. Mean growth line interval widths were 20% greater for larval shells cultured in low- vs high-CO2 conditions. Crassostrea virginica veliger larvae were shown to tolerate high CO2 levels and aragonite saturation states (Ωarag) < 1.0, but larval growth was slowed substantially under these conditions. Differences in growth line interval width translate into substantial changes in shell area and account for previously observed differences in total shell area between the treatments, as determined by light microscopy and image analysis. Other studies have documented high mortality and malformation of D-stage larvae in bivalves when pre-veliger life stages (i.e. eggs, gastrula and trochophores) were exposed to elevated CO2. Our experiments revealed statistical differences in rates of larval survival, settlement and subsequent early-stage spat mortality for veligers reared in high- and low-CO2 conditions. Although each of these rates was measurably affected by high CO2, the magnitude of these differences was small (range across categories = 0.7–6.3%) suggesting that the impacts may not be catastrophic, as implied by several previous studies. We believe the apparent disparity among experimental results may be best explained by differential vulnerability of pre-veliger stage larvae and veligers, whereby PI and PII larvae have greater physiological capacity to withstand environmental conditions that may be thermodynamically unfavourable to calcification (i.e. Ωarag < 1.0).

Continue reading ‘Evidence for stage-based larval vulnerability and resilience to acidification in Crassostrea virginica’

pH variability off Goa (eastern Arabian Sea) and the response of sea urchin to ocean acidification scenarios

The increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration in the last few decades has resulted in a decrease in oceanic pH. In this study, we assessed the natural variability of pH in coastal waters off Goa, eastern Arabian Sea. pHT showed large variability (7.6–8.1) with low pH conditions during south‐west monsoon (SWM), and the variability is found to be associated with upwelling rather than freshwater runoff. Considering that marine biota inhabiting dynamic coastal waters off Goa are exposed to such wide range of natural fluctuations of pH, an acidification experiment was carried out. We studied the impact of low pH on the local population of sea urchin Stomopneustes variolaris (Lamarck, 1816). Sea urchins were exposed for 210 days to three treatments of pHT: 7.96, 7.76 and 7.46. Our results showed that S. variolaris at pHT 7.96 and 7.76 were not affected, whereas the ones at pHT 7.46 showed adverse effects after 120 days and 50% mortality by 210 days. However, even after exposure to low pH for 210 days, 50% organisms survived. Under low pH conditions (pHT 7.46), the elemental composition of sea urchin spines exhibited deposition of excess Sr2+ as compared to Mg2+ ions. We conclude that although the sea urchins would be affected in future high CO2 waters, at present they are not at risk even during the south‐west monsoon when low pH waters reside on the shelf.

Continue reading ‘pH variability off Goa (eastern Arabian Sea) and the response of sea urchin to ocean acidification scenarios’

Acclimatization drives differences in reef-building coral calcification rates

Coral reefs are susceptible to climate change, anthropogenic influence, and environmental stressors. However, corals in Kāneʻohe Bay, Hawaiʻi have repeatedly shown resilience and acclimatization to anthropogenically-induced rising temperatures and increased frequencies of bleaching events. Variations in coral and algae cover at two sites—just 600 m apart—at Malaukaʻa fringing reef suggest genetic or environmental differences in coral resilience between sites. A reciprocal transplant experiment was conducted to determine if calcification (linear extension and dry skeletal weight) for dominant reef-building species, Montipora capitata and Porites compressa, varied between the two sites and whether or not parent colony or environmental factors were responsible for the differences. Despite the two sites representing distinct environmental conditions with significant differences between temperature, salinity, and aragonite saturation, M. capitata growth rates remained the same between sites and treatments. However, dry skeletal weight increases in P. compressa were significantly different between sites, but not across treatments, with linear mixed effects model results suggesting heterogeneity driven by environmental differences between sites and the parent colonies. These results provide evidence of resilience and acclimatization for M. capitata and P. compressa. Variability of resilience may be driven by local adaptations at a small, reef-level scale for P. compressa in Kāneʻohe Bay.

Continue reading ‘Acclimatization drives differences in reef-building coral calcification rates’

Incorporation of minor and trace elements into cultured brachiopods: implications for proxy application with new insights from a biomineralisation model

Brachiopods present a key fossil group for Phanerozoic palaeo-environmental and palaeo-oceanographical reconstructions, owing to their good preservation and abundance in the geological record. Yet to date, hardly any geochemical proxies have been calibrated in cultured brachiopods and only little is known on the mechanisms that control the incorporation of various key elements into brachiopod calcite. To evaluate the feasibility and robustness of multiple Element/Ca ratios as proxies in brachiopods, specifically Li/Ca, B/Ca, Na/Ca, Mg/Ca, Sr/Ca, Ba/Ca, as well as Li/Mg, we cultured Magellania venosa, Terebratella dorsata and Pajaudina atlantica under controlled experimental settings over a period of more than two years with closely monitored ambient conditions, carbonate system parameters and elemental composition of the culture medium. The experimental setup comprised of two control aquariums (pH0 = 8.0 and 8.15, T = 10 °C) and treatments where pCO2 − pH (pH1 = 7.6 and pH2 = 7.35), temperature (T = 16 °C) and chemical composition of the culture medium were manipulated. Our results indicate that the incorporation of Li and Mg is strongly influenced by temperature, growth effects as well as carbonate chemistry, complicating the use of Li/Ca, Mg/Ca and Li/Mg ratios as straightforward reliable proxies. Boron partitioning varied greatly between the treatments, however without a clear link to carbonate system parameters or other environmental factors. The partitioning of both Ba and Na varied between individuals, but was not systematically affected by changes in the ambient conditions. We highlight Sr as a potential proxy for DIC, based on a positive trend between Sr partitioning and carbonate chemistry in the culture medium. To explain the observed dependency and provide a quantitative framework for exploring elemental variations, we devise the first biomineralisation model for brachiopods, which results in a close agreement between modelled and measured Sr distribution coefficients. We propose that in order to sustain shell growth under increased DIC, a decreased influx of Ca2+ to the calcifying fluid is necessary, driving the preferential substitution of Sr2+ for Ca2+ in the crystal lattice. Finally, we conducted micro-computed tomography analyses of the shells grown in the different experimental treatments. We present pore space – punctae – content quantification that indicates that shells built under increased environmental stress, and in particular elevated temperature, contain relatively more pore space than calcite, suggesting this parameter as a potential novel proxy for physiological stress and even environmental conditions.

Continue reading ‘Incorporation of minor and trace elements into cultured brachiopods: implications for proxy application with new insights from a biomineralisation model’

Effects of temperature and food concentration on pteropod metabolism along the Western Antarctic Peninsula


  • Measured respiration and excretion of the Antarctic pteropod Limacina.
  • Analyzed effects of future temperature and food conditions on pteropod metabolism.
  • Highest metabolism occurred under higher temperatures with less response to food.
  • Metabolic ratios of C, N, and P were all below the canonical Redfield ratio.
  • Pteropod metabolism responsive to ocean change, affecting biogeochemical cycles.


Pteropods (pelagic snails) are abundant zooplankton in the Southern Ocean where they are important grazers of phytoplankton, prey for higher trophic levels, and sensitive to environmental change. The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is a highly dynamic and productive region that has undergone rapid warming, but little is known about how environmental changes there will affect pteropod physiology. In this study, the effects of warming seawater temperatures and shifting food availability on Limacina helicina antarctica metabolism (respiration and excretion) were determined by conducting shipboard experiments that exposed pteropods to a range of temperatures and phytoplankton (food) concentrations. Highest respiration (up to 69 μmol O2 gDW−1 h−1) and usually highest excretion rates occurred under higher temperature with more limited metabolic response to food concentration, indicating these factors do not always have an additive effect on pteropod metabolism. The proportion of dissolved organic matter (DOM) to total organic and inorganic dissolved constituents was high and was also significantly affected by shifts in temperature and food. Dissolved organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus (DOC, DON, and DOP) were on average 27, 51, and 11.5% of the total C, N, and P metabolized, respectively. The proportion of total N excreted as DON and the proportion of total P excreted as DOP were significantly affected by a combination of shifting temperature and food concentrations. There were no effects of temperature or food on DOC excretion (mean 8.79 μmol C gDW−1 h−1; range 0.44 to 44) as a proportion of total C metabolized. Metabolic O2:N ratio ranged from 2 to 9 and decreased significantly with increasing temperature and food, indicating a shift toward increased protein catabolism. Metabolic ratios of C, N, and P were all below the canonical Redfield ratio, which has implications for phytoplankton nutrient uptake and bacterial production. Respiration rates at ambient conditions of other WAP pteropods, and excretion rates for Clio pyramidata, were also measured, with respiration rates ranging from 24.39 (Spongiobranchaea australis) to 28.86 (L. h. antarctica) μmol O2 gDW−1 h−1. Finally, a CO2 perturbation experiment measuring L. h. antarctica metabolism under pre-industrial and elevated dissolved pCO2 conditions showed no significant change in mean L. h. antarctica respiration or excretion rates with higher pCO2. These insights into the metabolic response of pteropods to ocean variability increase our understanding of the role of zooplankton in biogeochemical cycles and help predict future responses to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Effects of temperature and food concentration on pteropod metabolism along the Western Antarctic Peninsula’

A regional neural network approach to estimate water-column nutrient concentrations and carbonate system variables in the Mediterranean Sea: CANYON-MED

A regional neural network-based method, “CANYON-MED” is developed to estimate nutrients and carbonate system variables specifically in the Mediterranean Sea over the water column from pressure, temperature, salinity, and oxygen together with geolocation and date of sampling. Six neural network ensembles were developed, one for each variable (i.e., three macronutrients: nitrates (NO−33-), phosphates (PO3−443-) and silicates (SiOH4), and three carbonate system variables: pH on the total scale (pHT), total alkalinity (AT), and dissolved inorganic carbon or total carbon (CT), trained using a specific quality-controlled dataset of reference “bottle” data in the Mediterranean Sea. This dataset is representative of the peculiar conditions of this semi-enclosed sea, as opposed to the global ocean. For each variable, the neural networks were trained on 80% of the data chosen randomly and validated using the remaining 20%. CANYON-MED retrieved the variables with good accuracies (Root Mean Squared Error): 0.73 μ–1 for NO−33-, 0.045 μ–1 for PO3−443- and 0.70 μ–1 for Si(OH)4, 0.016 units for pHT, 11 μ–1 for AT and 10 μ–1 for CT. A second validation on the ANTARES independent time series confirmed the method’s applicability in the Mediterranean Sea. After comparison to other existing methods to estimate nutrients and carbonate system variables, CANYON-MED stood out as the most robust, using the aforementioned inputs. The application of CANYON-MED on the Mediterranean Sea data from autonomous observing systems (integrated network of Biogeochemical-Argo floats, Eulerian moorings and ocean gliders measuring hydrological properties together with oxygen concentration) could have a wide range of applications. These include data quality control or filling gaps in time series, as well as biogeochemical data assimilation and/or the initialization and validation of regional biogeochemical models still lacking crucial reference data. Matlab and R code are available at https://

Continue reading ‘A regional neural network approach to estimate water-column nutrient concentrations and carbonate system variables in the Mediterranean Sea: CANYON-MED’

Physiological resilience of pink salmon to naturally occurring ocean acidification

Pacific salmon stocks are in decline with climate change named as a contributing factor. The North Pacific coast of British Columbia is characterized by strong temporal and spatial heterogeneity in ocean conditions with upwelling events elevating CO2 levels up to 10-fold those of pre-industrial global averages. Early life stages of pink salmon have been shown to be affected by these CO2 levels, and juveniles naturally migrate through regions of high CO2 during the energetically costly phase of smoltification. To investigate the physiological response of out-migrating wild juvenile pink salmon to these naturally occurring elevated CO2 levels, we captured fish in Georgia Strait, British Columbia and transported them to a marine lab (Hakai Institute, Quadra Island) where fish were exposed to one of three CO2 levels (850, 1500 and 2000 μatm CO2) for 2 weeks. At ½, 1 and 2 weeks of exposure, we measured their weight and length to calculate condition factor (Fulton’s K), as well as haematocrit and plasma [Cl]. At each of these times, two additional stressors were imposed (hypoxia and temperature) to provide further insight into their physiological condition. Juvenile pink salmon were largely robust to elevated CO2 concentrations up to 2000 μatm CO2, with no mortality or change in condition factor over the 2-week exposure duration. After 1 week of exposure, temperature and hypoxia tolerance were significantly reduced in high CO2, an effect that did not persist to 2 weeks of exposure. Haematocrit was increased by 20% after 2 weeks in the CO2 treatments relative to the initial measurements, while plasma [Cl] was not significantly different. Taken together, these data indicate that juvenile pink salmon are quite resilient to naturally occurring high CO2 levels during their ocean outmigration.

Continue reading ‘Physiological resilience of pink salmon to naturally occurring ocean acidification’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book