Archive for the 'Science' Category

Response of corals Acropora pharaonis and Porites lutea to changes in pH and temperature in the Gulf

Coral reefs are harboring a large part of the marine biodiversity and are important ecosystems for the equilibrium of the oceans. As a consequence of anthropogenic CO2 emission, a drop in pH and an increase in seawater temperature is observed in the Gulf coastal waters that potentially threaten coral assemblages. An experimental study was conducted on two species of corals to assess the effect of ocean warming and ocean acidification on the net calcification rate. Two pH conditions 8.2 and 7.5 and three temperatures, 22.5, 27.5 and 32.5 °C, were considered. Net calcification rates were measured using 45Ca radiotracer. Both temperature and pH had a significant effect on net calcification rates following a similar pattern for both species. The highest calcification rate was observed at low temperature and high pH. Increased temperature and decreased pH led to a decrease in net calcification rates. An interactive effect was observed as the effect of pH decreased with increasing temperature. However, the two species of coral were able to calcify in all the tested combination of temperature and pH suggesting that they are adapted to short term changes in temperature and pH. Ability to calcify even at a high temperature of 32.5 °C that is identical to the summertime Gulf seawater temperature under both the ambient and low pH condition with no mortalities, raises a question: are these corals adapted to high seawater temperatures and low pH? More in-depth assessments will be required to confirm if this is an adaptation to higher temperatures in Persian Gulf corals.

Continue reading ‘Response of corals Acropora pharaonis and Porites lutea to changes in pH and temperature in the Gulf’

Carbonic anhydrase as a biomarker of global and local impacts: insights from calcifying animals

The emission of greenhouse gases has grown in unprecedented levels since the beginning of the industrial era. As a result, global climate changes, such as heightened global temperature and ocean acidification, are expected to negatively impact populations. Similarly, industrial and urban unsustainable development are also expected to impose local impacts of their own, such as environmental pollution with organic and inorganic chemicals. As an answer, biomarkers can be used in environmental programs to assess these impacts. These tools are based in the quantification of biochemical and cellular responses of target species that are known to respond in a sensitive and specific way to such stresses. In this context, carbonic anhydrase has shown to be a promising biomarker candidate for the assessment of global and local impacts in biomonitoring programs, especially in marine zones, such as coral reefs, considering the pivotal role of this enzyme in the calcification process. Therefore, the aim of this review is to show the recent advances in the carbonic anhydrase research and the reasons why it can be considered as a promising biomarker to be used for calcifying organisms.

Continue reading ‘Carbonic anhydrase as a biomarker of global and local impacts: insights from calcifying animals’

Effects of elevated CO2 on growth, calcification, and spectral dependence of photoinhibition in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (Prymnesiophyceae)

We studied the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on cell growth, calcification, and spectral variation in the sensitivity of photosynthesis to inhibition by solar radiation in the globally important coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. Growth rates and chlorophyll a content per cell showed no significant differences between elevated (800 ppmv) and ambient (400 ppmv) CO2 conditions. However, the production of organic carbon and the cell quotas for both carbon and nitrogen, increased under elevated CO2 conditions, whilst particulate inorganic carbon production rates decreased under the same conditions. Biometric analyses of cells showed that coccoliths only presented significant differences due to treatments in the central area width. Most importantly, the size of the coccosphere decreased under elevated CO2 conditions. The susceptibility of photosynthesis to inhibition by ultraviolet radiation (UVR) was estimated using biological weighting functions (BWFs) and a model that predicts photosynthesis under photosynthetically active radiation and UVR exposures. BWF results demonstrated that the sensitivity of photosynthesis to UVR was not significantly different between E. huxleyi cells grown under elevated and present CO2 concentrations. We propose that the acclimation to elevated CO2 conditions involves a physiological mechanism of regulation and allocation of energy and metabolites in the cell, which is also responsible for altering the sensitivity to UVR. In coccolithophores, this mechanism might be affected by the decrease in the calcification rates.

Continue reading ‘Effects of elevated CO2 on growth, calcification, and spectral dependence of photoinhibition in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (Prymnesiophyceae)’

Mechanisms involving sensory pathway steps inform impacts of global climate change on ecological processes

Human-caused environmental change will have significant non-lethal and indirect impacts on organisms due to altered sensory pathways, with consequences for ecological interactions. While a growing body of work addresses how global ocean change can impair the way organisms obtain and use information to direct their behavior, these efforts have typically focused on one step of the pathway (e.g., reception of a cue/signal), one sensory modality (e.g., visual), or one environmental factor (e.g., temperature). An integrated view of how aspects of environmental change will impact multiple sensory pathways and related ecological processes is needed to better anticipate broader consequences for marine ecosystems. Here, we present a conceptual synthesis of effects of global change on marine sensory ecology, based on a literature review. Our review supports several predictions for how particular sensory pathway steps – production, transmission, and reception/processing of cues/signals – are affected by environmental change. First, the production and reception/processing of multiple modalities of cues/signals are vulnerable to multiple global change stressors, indicating that there are generalizable mechanisms by which environmental change impairs these pathways steps, leading to altered sensory pathway outcomes. Factors that enhance organismal stress as a whole may amplify impacts to these sensory pathways. Second, global change factors tend to affect specific modalities of cue/signal transmission. Consequently, local impacts on ecological processes linked with cue/signal transmission will vary depending on environmental stressor(s) present and the corresponding sensory modality. Finally, because many ecological and evolutionary interactions rely on sensory processing, impairment of sensory pathways may frequently underpin impacts of global ocean change on marine ecosystems. Effects on individual sensory processes will integrate to shape processes like mating, predation, and habitat selection, and we highlight new insights on impacts to ecological interactions by employing our mechanistic conceptual framework.

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The potential impact of underwater exhausted CO2 from innovative ships on invertebrate communities

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered ships equipped with an underwater exhaust system to reduce the ship’s water resistance could form a future generation of energy-efficient ships. The potential consequences of the underwater exhaust gas to the local ecosystems are still unknown. Especially, the CO2 levels may locally exceed estimated future global levels. The present study exposes marine communities to a wide range of CO2 dosages, resulting in pH 8.6–5.8 that was remained for 49 days. We found that the zooplankton and benthic community were adversely affected by high CO2 exposure levels. In detail, (1) between pH 6.6 and 7.1 polychaete worms became the dominating group of the benthic community and their larvae dominated the zooplankton group. (2) Due to the reduced grazing pressure and the flux of nutrients from decaying organic material planktonic microalgae (phytoplankton) stared blooming at the highest exposure level. The periphyton (fouling microalgae) community was not able to take advantage under these conditions. (3) Marine snails’ (periwinkle) shell damage and high mortality were observed at pH < 6.6. However, the growth of the surviving periwinkles was not directly related to pH, but was positively correlated with the availability of periphyton and negatively correlated with the polychaete worm density that most likely also used the periphyton as food source. Our result indicates that the impact of underwater exhaust gasses depends on various factors including local biological and abiotic conditions, which will be included in future research.

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Biomonitoring acidification using marine gastropods


• Data loggers offer limited coverage of acidification in marine ecosystems.

• Intertidal water pH was reflected in organismal attributes of gastropods.

• Shell surface erosion presents a clear estimate of corrosive water exposure.

• Gastropod biomonitoring can identify coastal areas of more or lesser acidification.


Ocean acidification is mainly being monitored using data loggers which currently offer limited coverage of marine ecosystems. Here, we trial the use of gastropod shells to monitor acidification on rocky shores. Animals living in areas with highly variable pH (8.6–5.9) were compared with those from sites with more stable pH (8.6–7.9). Differences in site pH were reflected in size, shape and erosion patterns in Nerita chamaeleon and Planaxis sulcatus. Shells from acidified sites were shorter, more globular and more eroded, with both of these species proving to be good biomonitors. After an assessment of baseline weathering, shell erosion can be used to indicate the level of exposure of organisms to corrosive water, providing a tool for biomonitoring acidification in heterogeneous intertidal systems. A shell erosion ranking system was found to clearly discriminate between acidified and reference sites. Being spatially-extensive, this approach can identify coastal areas of greater or lesser acidification. Cost-effective and simple shell erosion ranking is amenable to citizen science projects and could serve as an early-warning-signal for natural or anthropogenic acidification of coastal waters.

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Limits and patterns of acid-base regulation during elevated environmental CO2 in fish


• High aquatic CO2 may pose challenges to extra- and intra-cellular pH regulation in fish

• In this review we discuss the putative limits to extracellular pH regulation in fish and how some species use a strategy referred to as ‘preferential intracellular pH regulation’ to maintain pH homeostasis during exposure to CO2 tensions beyond their capacity for extracellular pH regulation.


Aquatic CO2 tensions may exceed 30–60 Torr (ca. 30,000–79,000 μatm, respectively; hypercarbia) in some environments inducing severe acid-base challenges in fish. Typically, during exposure to hypercarbia blood pH (pHe) is initially reduced and then compensated in association with an increase in plasma HCO3– in exchange for Cl−. Typically, intracellular pH (pHi) is reduced and recovery is to some degree coupled to pHe recovery (coupled pH regulation). However, during acute hypercarbia, pHe recovery has been proposed to be limited by an “apparent upper bicarbonate threshold”, restricting complete pHe recovery to below 15 Torr PCO2. At PCO2 values beyond that which fish can compensate pHe, some fish are able to fully protect pHi despite large sustained reductions in pHe (preferential pHi regulation) and can tolerate PCO2 > 45 Torr. This review discusses pHe and pHi regulation during exposure to hypercarbia starting with modeling the capacity and theoretical limit to pHe compensation in 19 studies. Next, we discuss how fish compensate severe acute hypercarbia exposures beyond the putative limit of pHe compensation using preferential pHi regulation which has recently been observed to be common among fish subjected to severe hypercarbia. Finally, we consider the evolution of pH regulatory strategies in vertebrates, including how the presence of preferential pHi regulation in embryonic reptiles may indicate that it is an embryonic trait that is either lost or retained in adult vertebrates and may have served as an exaptation for evolutionary transitions during vertebrate evolution.

Continue reading ‘Limits and patterns of acid-base regulation during elevated environmental CO2 in fish’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book