Archive for the 'Science' Category



A status review of pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) along the west coast of North America: interpreting trends, addressing uncertainty, and assessing risk for a wide-ranging marine invertebrate

Pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana), the widest ranging abalone species in North America, occurs from Alaska, United States to Central Baja California, Mexico. The species has been observed in intertidal and subtidal habitats from 0 to 40mdepth. The best available data indicate that pinto abalone abundance has declined in many areas throughout the species’ range due to fisheries harvest. Subsistence and personal use fisheries in Alaska and a commercial fishery in Mexico persist. Preliminary data from 2008 to 2016 indicate signs of recovery for some pinto abalone populations along the British Columbia coast due to multiple contributing factors including a reduction in illegal harvest, natural recovery following fishery closure, and low predation pressure. By contrast, pinto abalone populations at the San Juan Islands in Washington are experiencing recruitment failure and continuing to decline, despite closure of the fisheries and no evidence of poaching. Throughout the remainder of the species’ range, trends are less clear, due to the lack of regular, long-term monitoring surveys for pinto abalone. The limited data from surveys and/or opportunistic sightings indicate that pinto abalone populations are small, patchily distributed, and/or fluctuate episodically in Alaska, California, and Mexico, with evidence of recent recruitment in a number of locations within these three areas. Baseline abundance and trend data for the species before the advent of commercial fisheries and, in some areas, the local extirpation of sea otters is lacking. Without a clear baseline with which to compare the current abundance levels and trend information, it is difficult to interpret what these levels mean for the status and viability of the species. Threats to pinto abalone were evaluated and characterized using a qualitative rating (i.e., low, moderate, high, very high) based on the threats’ scope, severity, and persistence and the sufficiency of the data to support the rating. Several threats that posed a moderate level of risk to pinto abalone were identified including the following: low densities as a result of historical overfishing; the potential threat posed by ocean acidification; and illegal take because of poaching and inadequate law enforcement. The overall risk that pinto abalone face throughout their range was evaluated, and it was determined that they have a low to moderate level of extinction risk now and in the foreseeable future (over both the 30-y and 100-y time horizons). There is a high level of uncertainty regarding demographic factors, in particular regarding whether abundance and productivity levels are sufficient to support the persistence and recovery of the species in the face of continuing and potential future threats. Although recruitment failure may be occurring in some areas (e.g., San Juan Islands Archipelago), in other areas throughout the range recurring and/or recent recruitment events have been observed, despite low densities, and have even resulted in increased densities (across all size classes) at several index sites in British Columbia. Limitations in using demographic data to guide conservation actions and help ensure species persistence could be overcome by conducting consistent monitoring of pinto abalone populations throughout their range.

Continue reading ‘A status review of pinto abalone (Haliotis kamtschatkana) along the west coast of North America: interpreting trends, addressing uncertainty, and assessing risk for a wide-ranging marine invertebrate’

Exploring the “evil twin of global warming”: public understanding of ocean acidification in the United States

Ocean acidification (OA) occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolves into oceans. OA and climate change are both caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions, and many scientists consider them equally critical problems. We assess if preexisting beliefs, ideologies, value predispositions, and demographics affect OA perceptions among the U.S. public. Nearly 80% of respondents know little about OA, but concern increased following a message explaining OA and climate change, especially among females, liberals, and climate change believers. OA information seeking intentions and research support were also greater among females, liberals, and climate change believers. We discuss implications for efforts to increase OA public awareness.

Continue reading ‘Exploring the “evil twin of global warming”: public understanding of ocean acidification in the United States’

Metabolic responses to elevated pCO2 in the gills of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) using a GC-TOF-MS-based metabolomics approach (update)

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), primarily from anthropogenic emissions, are resulting in increasing absorption of CO2 by the oceans, leading to a decline in oceanic pH in a process known as ocean acidification (OA). There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating the potential effect of OA on the energetics/physiology and consequently life-history traits of commensally important marine organisms. However, despite this little is known of how fundamental metabolic pathways that underpin changes in organismal physiology are affected by OA. Consequently, a gas chromatography time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC-TOF-MS) based metabolic profiling approach was applied to examine the metabolic responses of Crassostrea gigas to elevated pCO2 levels, under otherwise natural field conditions. Oysters were exposed natural environmental pCO2 (~625.40 μatm) and elevated pCO2 (~1432.94 μatm) levels for 30 days. Results indicated that 36 differential metabolites were identified. Differential metabolites were mapped in the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) database to search for the related metabolic pathways. Pathway enrichment analysis indicates that alanine, aspartate and glutamate metabolism and glycine, serine and threonine metabolism were the most statistically enriched pathways. Further analysis suggested that elevated pCO2 disturb the TCA cycle via succinate accumulation and C. gigas most likely adjust their energy metabolic via alanine and GABA accumulation accordingly to cope with elevated pCO2. These findings provide an understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in modulating C. gigas metabolism under elevated pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Metabolic responses to elevated pCO2 in the gills of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) using a GC-TOF-MS-based metabolomics approach (update)’

Elevated temperature does not substantially modify the interactive effects between elevated CO2 and diel CO2 cycles on the survival, growth and behavior of a coral reef fish

Recent studies demonstrate that diel CO2 cycles, such as those prevalent in many shallow water habitats, can potentially modify the effects of ocean acidification conditions on marine organisms. However, whether the interaction between elevated CO2 and diel CO2 cycles is further modified by elevated temperature is unknown. To test this, we reared juvenile spiny damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus, for 11 weeks in two stable (450 and 1000 μatm) and two diel- cycling elevated CO2 treatments (1000 ± 300 and 1000 ± 500 μatm) at both current-day (29°C) and projected future temperature (31°C). We measured the effects on survivorship, growth, behavioral lateralization, activity, boldness and escape performance (fast starts). A significant interaction between CO2 and temperature was only detected for survivorship. Survival was lower in the two cycling CO2 treatments at 31°C compared with 29°C but did not differ between temperatures in the two stable CO2 treatments. In other traits we observed independent effects of elevated CO2, and interactions between elevated CO2 and diel CO2 cycles, but these effects were not influenced by temperature. There was a trend toward decreased growth in fish reared under stable elevated CO2 that was counteracted by diel CO2 cycles, with fish reared under cycling CO2 being significantly larger than fish reared under stable elevated CO2. Diel CO2 cycles also mediated the negative effect of elevated CO2 on behavioral lateralization, as previously reported. Routine activity was reduced in the 1000 ± 500 μatm CO2 treatment compared to control fish. In contrast, neither boldness nor fast-starts were affected by any of the CO2 treatments. Elevated temperature had significant independent effects on growth, routine activity and fast start performance. Our results demonstrate that diel CO2 cycles can significantly modify the growth and behavioral responses of fish under elevated CO2 and that these effects are not altered by elevated temperature, at least in this species. Our findings add to a growing body of work that highlights the critical importance of incorporating natural CO2 variability in ocean acidification experiments to more accurately assess the effects of ocean climate change on marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Elevated temperature does not substantially modify the interactive effects between elevated CO2 and diel CO2 cycles on the survival, growth and behavior of a coral reef fish’

High-frequency variability of CO2 in Grand Passage, Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia (update)

Assessing changes in the marine carbon cycle arising from anthropogenic CO2 emissions requires a detailed understanding of the carbonate system’s natural variability. Coastal ecosystems vary over short spatial and temporal scales, so their dynamics are not well described by long-term and broad regional averages. A year-long time series of pCO2, temperature, salinity, and currents is used to quantify the high-frequency variability of the carbonate system at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. The seasonal cycle of pCO2 is modulated by a diel cycle that is larger in summer than in winter and a tidal contribution that is primarily M2, with amplitude roughly half that of the diel cycle throughout the year. The interaction between tidal currents and carbonate system variables leads to lateral transport by tidal pumping, which moves alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) out of the bay, opposite to the mean flow in the region, and constitutes a new feature of how this strongly tidal region connects to the larger Gulf of Maine and northwest Atlantic carbon system. These results suggest that tidal pumping could substantially modulate the coastal ocean’s response to global ocean acidification in any region with large tides and spatial variation in biological activity, requiring that high-frequency variability be accounted for in assessments of carbon budgets of coastal regions.

Continue reading ‘High-frequency variability of CO2 in Grand Passage, Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia (update)’

Algal communities: an answer to global climate change

Human activities and resultant changes in global climate have profound consequences for ecosystems and economic and social systems, including those that are dependent upon marine systems. The increasing concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) has resulted in gradual modification of multiple aspects of marine ecosystem properties such as salinity, temperature, and pH. It is well known that temporal and spatial variations in environmental properties determine the composition and abundance of different algal populations in a region. Within the present study the evidence for algal compatibility to changing environmental conditions is surveyed. The unique ability of algal communities to play a role in promotion of CO2 sequestration technologies, biorefinery approaches, as well as transition to CO2‐neutral renewable energy has gained traction with environmentalists and economists in a view to mitigation of climate change using algae. The next step is to re‐evaluate the assumption of a steady‐state oceanic carbon cycle and the role of biological activities in response to future climate changes.

Continue reading ‘Algal communities: an answer to global climate change’

Chemical microenvironments within macroalgal assemblages: implications for the inhibition of kelp recruitment by turf algae

Kelp forests around the world are under increasing pressure from anthropogenic stressors. A widespread consequence is that in many places, complex and highly productive kelp habitats have been replaced by structurally simple and less productive turf algae habitats. Turf algae habitats resist re‐establishment of kelp via recruitment inhibition; however, little is known about the specific mechanisms involved. One potential factor is the chemical environment within the turf algae and into which kelp propagules settle and develop. Using laboratory trials, we illustrate that the chemical microenvironment (O2 concentration and pH) 0.0–50 mm above the substratum within four multispecies macroalgal assemblages (including a turf‐sediment assemblage and an Ecklonia radiata kelp‐dominated assemblage) are characterized by elevated O2 and pH relative to the surrounding seawater. Notably however, O2 and pH were significantly higher within turf‐sediment assemblages than in kelp‐dominated assemblages, and at levels that have previously been demonstrated to impair the photosynthetic or physiological capacity of kelp propagules. Field observations of the experimental assemblages confirmed that recruitment of kelp was significantly lower into treatments with dense turf algae than in the kelp‐dominated assemblages. We demonstrate differences between the chemical microenvironments of kelp and turf algae assemblages that correlate with differences in kelp recruitment, highlighting how degradation of kelp habitats might result in the persistence of turf algae habitats and the localized absence of kelp.

Continue reading ‘Chemical microenvironments within macroalgal assemblages: implications for the inhibition of kelp recruitment by turf algae’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book