Archive for the 'Science' Category



Ghost factors of laboratory carbonate chemistry are haunting our experiments

For many historical and contemporary experimental studies in marine biology, seawater carbonate chemistry remains a ghost factor, an uncontrolled, unmeasured, and often dynamic variable affecting experimental organisms or the treatments to which investigators subject them. We highlight how environmental variability, such as seasonal upwelling and biological respiration, drive variation in seawater carbonate chemistry that can influence laboratory experiments in unintended ways and introduce a signal consistent with ocean acidification. As the impacts of carbonate chemistry on biochemical pathways that underlie growth, development, reproduction, and behavior become better understood, the hidden effects of this previously overlooked variable need to be acknowledged. Here we bring this emerging challenge to the attention of the wider community of experimental biologists who rely on access to organisms and water from marine and estuarine laboratories and who may benefit from explicit considerations of a growing literature on the pervasive effects of aquatic carbonate chemistry changes.

Continue reading ‘Ghost factors of laboratory carbonate chemistry are haunting our experiments’

Ocean acidification disrupts the orientation of postlarval Caribbean spiny lobsters

Anthropogenic inputs into coastal ecosystems are causing more frequent environmental fluctuations and reducing seawater pH. One such ecosystem is Florida Bay, an important nursery for the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus. Although adult crustaceans are often resilient to reduced seawater pH, earlier ontogenetic stages can be physiologically limited in their tolerance to ocean acidification on shorter time scales. We used a Y-maze chamber to test whether reduced-pH seawater altered the orientation of spiny lobster pueruli toward chemical cues produced by Laurencia spp. macroalgae, a known settlement cue for the species. We tested the hypothesis that pueruli conditioned in reduced-pH seawater would be less responsive to Laurencia spp. chemical cues than pueruli in ambient-pH seawater by comparing the proportion of individuals that moved to the cue side of the chamber with the proportion that moved to the side with no cue. We also recorded the amount of time (sec) before a response was observed. Pueruli conditioned in reduced-pH seawater were less responsive and failed to select the Laurencia cue. Our results suggest that episodic acidification of coastal waters might limit the ability of pueruli to locate settlement habitats, increasing postsettlement mortality.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification disrupts the orientation of postlarval Caribbean spiny lobsters’

Rapid shifts in circulation and biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean during deglacial carbon cycle events

The Southern Ocean plays a crucial role in regulating atmospheric CO2 on centennial to millennial time scales. However, observations of sufficient resolution to explore this have been lacking. Here, we report high-resolution, multiproxy records based on precisely dated deep-sea corals from the Southern Ocean. Paired deep (∆14C and δ11B) and surface (δ15N) proxy data point to enhanced upwelling coupled with reduced efficiency of the biological pump at 14.6 and 11.7 thousand years (ka) ago, which would have facilitated rapid carbon release to the atmosphere. Transient periods of unusually well-ventilated waters in the deep Southern Ocean occurred at 16.3 and 12.8 ka ago. Contemporaneous atmospheric carbon records indicate that these Southern Ocean ventilation events are also important in releasing respired carbon from the deep ocean to the atmosphere. Our results thus highlight two distinct modes of Southern Ocean circulation and biogeochemistry associated with centennial-scale atmospheric CO2 jumps during the last deglaciation.

Continue reading ‘Rapid shifts in circulation and biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean during deglacial carbon cycle events’

OceanSODA-ETHZ: A global gridded data set of the surface ocean carbonate system for seasonal to decadal studies of ocean acidification

Ocean acidification has altered the ocean’s carbonate chemistry profoundly since preindustrial times, with potentially serious consequences for marine life. Yet, no long-term global observation-based data set exists that permits to study changes in ocean acidification for all carbonate system parameters over the last few decades. Here, we fill this gap and present a methodologically consistent global data set of all relevant surface ocean parameters, i.e., dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), total alkalinity (TA), partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2), pH, and the saturation state with respect to mineral CaCO3 (Ω) at monthly resolution over the period 1985 through 2018 at a spatial resolution of 1 × 1°. This data set, named OceanSODA-ETHZ, was created by extrapolating in time and space the surface ocean observations of pCO2 (from the Surface Ocean CO2 ATlas (SOCAT)) and total alkalinity (TA, from the Global Ocean Data Analysis Project (GLODAP)) using the newly developed Geospatial Random Cluster Ensemble Regression (GRaCER) method. This method is based on a two-step (cluster-regression) approach, but extends it by considering an ensemble of such cluster-regressions, leading to higher robustness. Surface ocean DIC, pH, and Ω were then computed from the globally mapped pCO2 and TA using the thermodynamic equations of the carbonate system. For the open ocean, the cluster regression method estimates pCO2 and TA with global near-zero biases and root mean squared errors of 12 µatm and 13 µmol kg−1, respectively. Taking into account also the measurement and representation errors, the total error increases to 14 µatm and 21 µmol kg−1, respectively. We assess the fidelity of the computed parameters by comparing them to direct observations from GLODAP, finding surface ocean pH and DIC global biases of near zero, and root mean squared errors of 0.023 and 16 µmol kg−1, respectively. These errors are very comparable to those expected by propagating the total errors from pCO2 and TA through the thermodynamic computations, indicating a robust and conservative assessment of the errors. We illustrate the potential of this new dataset by analyzing the climatological mean seasonal cycles of the different parameters of the surface ocean carbonate system, highlighting their commonalities and differences. The OceanSODA-ETHZ data can be downloaded from https://doi.org/10.25921/m5wx-ja34 (Gregor and Gruber, 2020).

Continue reading ‘OceanSODA-ETHZ: A global gridded data set of the surface ocean carbonate system for seasonal to decadal studies of ocean acidification’

Reply to: Methods matter in repeating ocean acidification studies

Replying to P. L. Munday et al. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2803-x (2020)

Pioneering papers by Munday and colleagues1,2 have reported profound effects of end-of-century ocean acidification—simulated by experimentally elevated CO2 levels in seawater—on the behaviour of coral reef fishes, such as extreme attraction of prey species to the chemical cues of their predators. Later studies by the same group reported that a range of other behaviours of coral reef fishes, including swimming activity, behavioural lateralization, homing and different predator avoidance behaviours, were also impaired by ocean acidification3 and that predator-escape behaviours in a coral reef mollusc were also impaired through the same physiological mechanism reported for fishes (that is, through effects on ‘GABAA-like receptors’), which led to the idea that “elevated-CO2 could cause behavioural impairment in a broad suite of marine animals”4. In 2014, we initiated experiments to further explore the physiological mechanism(s) that impaired coral reef fish behaviour in elevated levels of CO2; however, we immediately ran into a problem: despite several attempts, and many improvements to the standard methodology used in this field, we were unable to observe an effect of ocean acidification on fish behaviour. Our initial goal changed from what was meant to be a series of original experiments into a three-year effort to transparently examine behavioural effects of ocean acidification in coral reef fishes5; the findings of our study are the basis for the accompanying Comment by Munday et al.6.

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Methods matter in repeating ocean acidification studies

Arising from T. D. Clark et al. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1903-y (2020)

In their study, Clark et al.1 suggest that previous studies on the effects of elevated levels of CO2 on the behaviour of coral reef fishes are not repeatable and that ocean acidification does not impair the behaviour of coral reef fishes, even though six significant behavioural effects were detected in their study, each of which was dismissed for a different reason. They then compare the means and variances of six previous ocean acidification studies in fish with a data distribution that is derived from a multi-species compilation of their own data to conclude that the results of previous studies are statistically improbable. However, Clark et al.1 did not closely repeat previous studies, as they did not replicate key species, used different life stages and ecological histories and changed methods in important ways that reduce the likelihood of detecting the effects of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Methods matter in repeating ocean acidification studies’

The effects of ocean acidification and warming on growth of a natural community of coastal phytoplankton

An in situ mesocosm experiment was performed to investigate the combined effects of ocean acidification and warming on the coastal phytoplankton standing stock and species composition of a eutrophic coastal area in the temperate-subtropical region. Experimental treatments of natural seawater included three CO2 and two temperature conditions (present control: ~400 μatm CO2 and ambient temperature, acidification conditions: ~900 μatm CO2 and ambient temperature, and greenhouse conditions: ~900 μatm CO2 and ambient temperature +3 °C). We found that increased CO2 concentration benefited the growth of small autotrophic phytoplankton groups: picophytoplankton (PP), autotrophic nanoflagellates (ANF), and small chain-forming diatoms (DT). However, in the greenhouse conditions, ANF and DT abundances were lower compared with those in the acidification conditions. The proliferation of small autotrophic phytoplankton in future oceanic conditions (acidification and greenhouse) also increased the abundance of heterotrophic dinoflagellates (HDF). These responses suggest that a combination of acidification and warming will not only increase the small autotrophic phytoplankton standing stock but, also, lead to a shift in the diatom and dinoflagellate species composition, with potential biogeochemical element cycling feedback and an increased frequency and intensity of harmful algal blooms.

Continue reading ‘The effects of ocean acidification and warming on growth of a natural community of coastal phytoplankton’

Declines over the last two decades of five intertidal invertebrate species in the western North Atlantic

Climate change has already altered the environmental conditions of the world’s oceans. Here we report declines in gastropod abundances and recruitment of mussels (Mytilus edulis) and barnacles (Semibalanus balanoides) over the last two decades that are correlated with changes in temperature and ocean conditions. Mussel recruitment is declining by 15.7% per year, barnacle recruitment by 5.0% per year, and abundances of three common gastropods are declining by an average of 3.1% per year (Testudinalia testudinalisLittorina littorea, and Nucella lapillus). The declines in mussels and the common periwinkle (L. littorea) are correlated with warming sea temperatures and the declines in T. testudinalis and N. lapillus are correlated with aragonite saturation state, which affects rates of shell calcification. These species are common on shores throughout the North Atlantic and their loss is likely to lead to simplification of an important food web on rocky shores.

Continue reading ‘Declines over the last two decades of five intertidal invertebrate species in the western North Atlantic’

Glacial drivers of marine biogeochemistry indicate a future shift to more corrosive conditions in an Arctic fjord

A detailed survey of a high Arctic glacier fjord (Kongsfjorden, Svalbard) was carried out in summer 2016, close to the peak of the meltwater season, in order to identify the effects of glacier runoff on nutrient distributions and the carbonate system. Short‐term weather patterns were found to exert a strong influence on freshwater content within the fjord. Freshwater inputs from glacier runoff and ice meltwater averaged (±SD) low nitrate (1.85±0.47 μM; 0.41±0.99 μM), orthophosphate (0.07±0.27 μM; 0.02 ±0.03 μM), dissolved organic carbon (27 ±14 μM in glacier runoff), total alkalinity (708±251 μmol kg‐1; 173±121 μmol kg‐1) and dissolved inorganic carbon (622±108 μmol kg‐1; 41±88 μmol kg‐1), as well as a modest silicate concentration (3.71±0.02 μM; 3.16±5.41 μM). pCO2 showed a non‐conservative behavior across the estuarine salinity gradient with a pronounced under‐saturation in the inner‐fjord, leading to strong CO2 uptake from the atmosphere. The combined effect of freshwater dilution and atmospheric CO2 absorption was the lowering of aragonite saturation state, to values that are known to negatively affect marine calcifiers (ΩAr, 1.07). Glacier discharge was therefore a strong local amplifier of ocean acidification. Future increases in discharge volume and the loss of marine productivity following the retreat of marine‐terminating glaciers inland are both anticipated to further lower ΩAr within inner‐fjord surface waters. This shift may be partially buffered by an increase in the mean freshwater total alkalinity as the fractional importance of iceberg melt to freshwater fjord inputs declines and runoff increases.

Continue reading ‘Glacial drivers of marine biogeochemistry indicate a future shift to more corrosive conditions in an Arctic fjord’

Short-term effects of increased CO2, nitrate and temperature on photosynthetic activity in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated fluorometers and oxygen evolution

Short-term effects of pCO2 (700 – 380 ppm; HC-LC) and nitrate content (50-5 βM; HN-LC) on photosynthesis, estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated (PAMs) fluorometers and by oxygen evolution, were investigated in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) under solar radiation (ex-situ) and in the laboratory under artificial light (in-situ). After 6-days of incubation at ambient temperature (AT), algae were subjected to a 4 oC-temperature increase (AT+4oC) for 3 d. Both in-situ and ex-situ, maximal electron transport rate (ETRmax) and in situ gross photosynthesis (GP) measured by O2 evolution presented the highest values under HCHN, and the lowest under HCLN, across all measuring systems. Maximal quantum yield (Fv/Fm), and ETRmax of PSII (ETR(II)max) and of PSI (ETR(I)max), decreased under HCLN under AT+4°C. Ex situ ETR was higher than in situ ETR. At noon, Fv/Fm decreased (indicating photoinhibition), whereas ETR(II)max and maximal non-photochemical quenching (NPQmax) increased. ETR(II)max decreased under AT+4oC in contrast to Fv/Fm, photosynthetic efficiency (αETR) and saturated irradiance (EK). Thus, U. rigida exhibited a decrease in photosynthetic production under acidification, LN levels and AT+4oC. These results emphasize the importance of studying the interactive effects between environmental parameters using in-situ vs. ex-situ conditions when aiming to evaluate the impact of global change on marine macroalgae.

Continue reading ‘Short-term effects of increased CO2, nitrate and temperature on photosynthetic activity in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated fluorometers and oxygen evolution’


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