Archive for the 'Science' Category

Ocean acidification reduces hardness and stiffness of the Portuguese oyster shell with impaired microstructure: a hierarchical analysis

The rapidly intensifying process of ocean acidification (OA) due to anthropogenic CO2 is not only depleting carbonate ions necessary for calcification but also causing acidosis and disrupting internal pH homeostasis in several marine organisms. These negative consequences of OA on marine calcifiers, i.e. oyster species, have been very well documented in recent studies; however, the consequences of reduced or impaired calcification on the end-product, shells or skeletons, still remain one of the major research gaps. Shells produced by marine organisms under OA are expected to show signs of dissolution, disorganized microstructure and reduced mechanical properties. To bridge this knowledge gap and to test the above hypothesis, we investigated the effect of OA on juvenile shells of the commercially important oyster species, Magallana angulata, at ecologically and climatically relevant OA levels (using pH 8.1, 7.8, 7.5, 7.2). In lower pH conditions, a drop of shell hardness and stiffness was revealed by nanoindentation tests, while an evident porous internal microstructure was detected by scanning electron microscopy. Crystallographic orientation, on the other hand, showed no significant difference with decreasing pH using electron back-scattered diffraction (EBSD). These results indicate the porous internal microstructure may be the cause of the reduction in shell hardness and stiffness. The overall decrease of shell density observed from micro-computed tomography analysis indicates the porous internal microstructure may run through the shell, thus inevitably limiting the effectiveness of the shell’s defensive function. This study shows the potential deterioration of oyster shells induced by OA, especially in their early life stage. This knowledge is critical to estimate the survival and production of edible oysters in the future ocean.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification reduces hardness and stiffness of the Portuguese oyster shell with impaired microstructure: a hierarchical analysis’

Impact of carbonate saturation on large Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and its dissolution in seawater have reduced ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, with potential implications on calcifying organisms. To assess the response of large Caribbean benthic foraminifera to low carbonate saturation conditions, we analyzed benthic foraminifers’ abundance and relative distribution in surface sediments in proximity to low-carbonate-saturation submarine springs and at adjacent control sites. Our results show that the total abundance of large benthic foraminifera was significantly lower at the low-pH submarine springs than at control sites, although responses were species specific. The relative abundance of high-magnesium, porcelaneous foraminifera was higher than that of hyaline foraminifera at the low-pH springs due to the abundant Archaias angulatus, a chlorophyte-bearing foraminifer, which secretes a large and robust test that is more resilient to dissolution at low-calcite saturation. The different assemblages found at the submarine springs indicate that calcareous symbiont-barren foraminifera are more sensitive to the effects of ocean acidification than agglutinated and symbiont-bearing foraminifera, suggesting that future ocean acidification will likely impact natural benthic foraminifera populations.

Continue reading ‘Impact of carbonate saturation on large Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages’

Climate change does not affect seafood quality of a common targeted fish

Climate change can affect marine and estuarine fish via alterations to their distributions, abundances, sizes, physiology and ecological interactions, threatening the provision of ecosystem goods and services. While we have an emerging understanding of such ecological impacts to fish, we know little about the potential influence of climate change on the provision of nutritional seafood to sustain human populations. In particular, the quantity, quality and/or taste of seafood may be altered by future environmental changes with implications for the economic viability of fisheries. In an orthogonal mesocosm experiment, we tested the influence of near‐future ocean warming and acidification on the growth, health and seafood quality of a recreationally and economically important fish, yellowfin bream (Acanthopagrus australis). The growth of yellowfin bream significantly increased under near‐future temperature conditions (but not acidification), with little change in health (blood glucose and haematocrit) or tissue biochemistry and nutritional properties (fatty acids, lipids, macro‐and micronutrients, moisture, ash, and total N). Yellowfin bream appear to be highly resilient to predicted near‐future ocean climate change, which might be facilitated by their broad spatio‐temporal distribution across habitats and broad diet. Moreover, an increase in growth, but little change in tissue quality, suggests that near‐future ocean conditions will benefit fisheries and fishers that target yellowfin bream. The data reiterate the inherent resilience of yellowfin bream as an evolutionary consequence of their euryhaline status in often environmentally challenging habitats, and imply their sustainable and viable fisheries into the future.We contend that widely‐distributed species that span large geographic areas and habitats can be “climate‐winners” by being resilient to negative direct impacts of near‐future oceanic and estuarine climate change.
Continue reading ‘Climate change does not affect seafood quality of a common targeted fish’

Shifting the balance: engaging students in using a modeling tool to learn about ocean acidification

Modeling is one of the core scientific and engineering practices described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Students are expected to construct, use, evaluate, and revise their models to make sense of phenomena or to find solutions to problems. Technology tools can support the development of students’ modeling practice when learning about environmental issues. This study investigates the incorporation of an online computational modeling tool in a middle school curricular unit focusing on ocean acidification. We present the advantages and challenges experienced by students and teachers while engaging in the unit and using the modeling tool. Our results indicate that integrating the modeling tool in the ocean acidification curricular unit facilitates students’ interest and engagement in environmental responsibility and focused students’ attention toward human involvement and impact on the environment. Students perceived the tool and the curricular unit to be relevant to their lives and important in promoting their content learning and modeling practice. However, students and teachers reported several challenges, mostly related to the complexity of using the modeling tool and working with the resulting graphs and charts. We discuss these advantages and challenges and suggest recommendations for supporting students’ modeling practice when learning about environmental issues.
Continue reading ‘Shifting the balance: engaging students in using a modeling tool to learn about ocean acidification’

Adult Antarctic krill proves resilient in a simulated high CO2 ocean

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) have a keystone role in the Southern Ocean, as the primary prey of Antarctic predators. Decreases in krill abundance could result in a major ecological regime shift, but there is limited information on how climate change may affect krill. Increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing ocean acidification, as absorption of atmospheric CO2 in seawater alters ocean chemistry. Ocean acidification increases mortality and negatively affects physiological functioning in some marine invertebrates, and is predicted to occur most rapidly at high latitudes. Here we show that, in the laboratory, adult krill are able to survive, grow, store fat, mature, and maintain respiration rates when exposed to near-future ocean acidification (1000–2000 μatm pCO2) for one year. Despite differences in seawater pCO2 incubation conditions, adult krill are able to actively maintain the acid-base balance of their body fluids in near-future pCO2, which enhances their resilience to ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Adult Antarctic krill proves resilient in a simulated high CO2 ocean’

Repeat bleaching of a central Pacific coral reef over the past six decades (1960–2016)

The oceans are warming and coral reefs are bleaching with increased frequency and severity, fueling concerns for their survival through this century. Yet in the central equatorial Pacific, some of the world’s most productive reefs regularly experience extreme heat associated with El Niño. Here we use skeletal signatures preserved in long-lived corals on Jarvis Island to evaluate the coral community response to multiple successive heatwaves since 1960. By tracking skeletal stress band formation through the 2015-16 El Nino, which killed 95% of Jarvis corals, we validate their utility as proxies of bleaching severity and show that 2015-16 was not the first catastrophic bleaching event on Jarvis. Since 1960, eight severe (>30% bleaching) and two moderate (<30% bleaching) events occurred, each coinciding with El Niño. While the frequency and severity of bleaching on Jarvis did not increase over this time period, 2015–16 was unprecedented in magnitude. The trajectory of recovery of this historically resilient ecosystem will provide critical insights into the potential for coral reef resilience in a warming world.

Continue reading ‘Repeat bleaching of a central Pacific coral reef over the past six decades (1960–2016)’

Condition of pteropod shells near a volcanic CO2 vent region


 • in situ shell dissolution and change in shell biomass were the predominant features observed in the live pteropods collected within and nearby CO2 vent regions.

• Low pteropod biomass shells (collected nearby the CO2 vents) were more fragile and therefore more prone to fracture than the more robust, high biomass shells (collected in the control stations).

• In the Gulf of Naples, intermittent shifts away from optimum Ωar values can significantly affect pteropod calcification despite waters remaining oversaturated.


Natural gradients of pH in the ocean are useful analogues for studying the projected impacts of Ocean Acidification (OA) on marine ecosystems. Here we document the in situ impact of submarine CO2 volcanic emissions (CO2 vents) on live shelled-pteropods (planktonic gastropods) species Creseis conica in the Gulf of Naples (Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranean). Since the currents inside the Gulf will likely drive those pelagic calcifying organisms into and out of the CO2 vent zones, we assume that pteropods will be occasionally exposed to the vents during their life cycle. Shell degradation and biomass were investigated in the stations located within and nearby the CO2 vent emission in relation to the variability of sea water carbonate chemistry. A relative decrease in shell biomass (22%), increase in incidence of shell fractures (38%) and extent of dissolution were observed in Creseis conica collected in the Gulf of Naples compared to those from the Northern Tyrrhenian Sea (control stations). These results suggest that discontinuous but recurrent exposure to highly variable carbonate chemistry could consistently affect the characteristic of the pteropod shells.

Continue reading ‘Condition of pteropod shells near a volcanic CO2 vent region’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book