Posts Tagged 'adaptation'

Seaweeds cultivation methods and their role in climate mitigation and environmental cleanup

Seaweed cultivation is an emerging sector of food production that can full fill the future food demand of the growing population. Considering the importance, Asia is home to seven of the top ten seaweed-producing nations, and Asian countries contributed 99.1% of all seaweed cultivated for food. Besides, it can reduce the carbon budget of the ocean through seaweed farms and act as a CO2 sink. In the context of climate change mitigation, the seaweed culture is the energy crop, and during its entire life cycle can serve as a bio-filter and bio-extractor. The climate change effect can be reduced by farming seaweed on a commercial scale and it will protect the coastal area by decreasing the physical damage through damping wave energy. The seaweed can reduce eutrophication by removing excess nutrients from water bodies and releasing oxygen as a byproduct in return. The cultivation of seaweed plays an important role as the source of bioenergy for full fill the future energy requirement and it will act as clean energy through the establishment of algal biorefinery along with the seaweed cultivation site. Thus, the marine energy industrial sector moves further toward large-scale expansion of this sector by adopting energy devices to offer power for seaweed growth for biofuel operation. The current reviews provides the evidence of seaweed farming methodology adopted by different countries, as well as their production and output. To mitigate climate change by direct measures such as carbon sequestration, eutrophication risk reduction, and bioenergy, as well as through indirect measures like supplying food for cattle and reducing the strain on aquaculture. The US, Japan, and Germany lastly suggest the large-scale offshore commercial farming as a feasible climate change mitigation strategy.

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A look to the future acidified ocean through the eyes of the alien and invasive alga Caulerpa cylindracea (Chlorophyta, Ulvophyceae)

Underwater CO2 vents represent natural laboratories where the responses of marine organisms to ocean acidification can be tested. In a such context, we investigated the changes in the physiology, anatomy, and ultrastructure of the non-indigenous algal species Caulerpa cylindracea growing along a natural pH/CO2 gradient, by conducting a reciprocal transplant experiment between two populations from an acidified vs a non-acidified site. Stress effects in transplants from current to lowered pH conditions resulted in a decrease in the number of active chloroplasts together with an increased number of dilatations between thylakoid membranes and a higher amount of plastoglobules. These changes were consistent with a decrease in the chlorophyll content and in photosynthetic efficiency, matched by an increase in carotenoid content and non-photochemical yields. On the opposite side, transplants from low to current pH showed a recovery to original conditions. Unexpectedly, no significant difference was recorded between wild populations living at current and lowered pH. These results suggest an ongoing acclimation process to lowered pH in the C. cylindracea populations growing in the vent area. This confirms the high plasticity of this invasive species, able to cope not only with different light and temperature conditions but even with a new acidified scenario.

Continue reading ‘A look to the future acidified ocean through the eyes of the alien and invasive alga Caulerpa cylindracea (Chlorophyta, Ulvophyceae)’

Experimental evolution reveals the synergistic genomic mechanisms of adaptation to ocean warming and acidification in a marine copepod

Metazoan adaptation to global change relies on selection of standing genetic variation. Determining the extent to which this variation exists in natural populations, particularly for responses to simultaneous stressors, is essential to make accurate predictions for persistence in future conditions. Here, we identified the genetic variation enabling the copepod Acartia tonsa to adapt to experimental ocean warming, acidification, and combined ocean warming and acidification (OWA) over 25 generations of continual selection. Replicate populations showed a consistent polygenic response to each condition, targeting an array of adaptive mechanisms including cellular homeostasis, development, and stress response. We used a genome-wide covariance approach to partition the allelic changes into three categories: selection, drift and replicate-specific selection, and laboratory adaptation responses. The majority of allele frequency change in warming (57%) and OWA (63%) was driven by shared selection pressures across replicates, but this effect was weaker under acidification alone (20%). OWA and warming shared 37% of their response to selection but OWA and acidification shared just 1%, indicating that warming is the dominant driver of selection in OWA. Despite the dominance of warming, the interaction with acidification was still critical as the OWA selection response was highly synergistic with 47% of the allelic selection response unique from either individual treatment. These results disentangle how genomic targets of selection differ between single and multiple stressors and demonstrate the complexity that nonadditive multiple stressors will contribute to predictions of adaptation to complex environmental shifts caused by global change.

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Acclimatory gene expression of primed clams enhances robustness to elevated pCO2

Sublethal exposure to environmental challenges may enhance ability to cope with chronic or repeated change, a process known as priming. In a previous study, pre-exposure to seawater enriched with pCO2 improved growth and reduced antioxidant capacity of juvenile Pacific geoduck Panopea generosa clams, suggesting that transcriptional shifts may drive phenotypic modifications post-priming. To this end, juvenile clams were sampled and TagSeq gene expression data were analysed after (i) a 110-day acclimation under ambient (921 μatm, naïve) and moderately elevated pCO2 (2870 μatm, pre-exposed); then following (ii) a second 7-day exposure to three pCO2 treatments (ambient: 754 μatm; moderately elevated: 2750 μatm; severely elevated: 4940 μatm), a 7-day return to ambient pCO2 and a third 7-day exposure to two pCO2 treatments (ambient: 967 μatm; moderately elevated: 3030 μatm). Pre-exposed geoducks frontloaded genes for stress and apoptosis/innate immune response, homeostatic processes, protein degradation and transcriptional modifiers. Pre-exposed geoducks were also responsive to subsequent encounters, with gene sets enriched for mitochondrial recycling and immune defence under elevated pCO2 and energy metabolism and biosynthesis under ambient recovery. In contrast, gene sets with higher expression in naïve clams were enriched for fatty-acid degradation and glutathione components, suggesting naïve clams could be depleting endogenous fuels, with unsustainable energetic requirements if changes in carbonate chemistry persist. Collectively, our transcriptomic data indicate that pCO2 priming during post-larval periods could, via gene expression regulation, enhance robustness in bivalves to environmental change. Such priming approaches may be beneficial for aquaculture, as seafood demand intensifies concurrent with increasing climate change in marine systems.

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Adaptation of a marine diatom to ocean acidification increases its sensitivity to toxic metal exposure


  • Adaptation to OA increased marine diatom’s sensitivity to heavy metals (HM).
  • OA-adapted cells decreased their growth and photosynthesis at high HM levels.
  • The increase in sensitivity is associated with reduced metabolic activity.


Most previous studies investigating the interplay of ocean acidification (OA) and heavy metal on marine phytoplankton were only conducted in short-term, which may provide conservative estimates of the adaptive capacity of them. Here, we examined the physiological responses of long-term (~900 generations) OA-adapted and non-adapted populations of the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum to different concentrations of the two heavy metals Cd and Cu. Our results showed that long-term OA selected populations exhibited significantly lower growth and reduced photosynthetic activity than ambient CO2 selected populations at relatively high heavy metal levels. Those findings suggest that the adaptations to high CO2 results in an increased sensitivity of the marine diatom to toxic metal exposure. This study provides evidence for the costs and the cascading consequences associated with the adaptation of phytoplankton to elevated CO2 conditions, and improves our understanding of the complex interactions of future OA and heavy metal pollution in marine waters.

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Rates of future climate change in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea: implications for coral reef ecosystems

Rising temperatures and ocean acidification due to anthropogenic climate change pose ominous threats to coral reef ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and the western Caribbean Sea. Unfortunately, the once structurally complex coral reefs in the GoM and Caribbean have dramatically declined since the 1970s; relatively few coral reefs still exhibit a mean live coral cover of > 10%. Additional work is needed to characterize future climate stressors on corals reefs in the GoM and the Caribbean Sea. Here, we use climate model simulations spanning the period of 2015-2100 to partition and assess the individual impacts of climate stressors on corals in the GoM and the western Caribbean Sea. We use a top-down modeling framework to diagnose future projected changes in thermal stress and ocean acidification and discuss its implications for coral reef ecosystems. We find that ocean temperatures increase by 2-3°C over the 21st century, and surpass reported regional bleaching thresholds by mid-century. Whereas ocean acidification occurs, the rate and magnitude of temperature changes outpace and outweigh the impacts of changes in aragonite saturation state. A framework for quantifying and communicating future risks in the GoM and Caribbean using reef risk projection maps is discussed. Without substantial mitigation efforts, the combined impact of increasing ocean temperatures and acidification are likely to stress most existing corals in the GoM and the Caribbean, with widespread economic and ecological consequences.

Plain Language Summary

Coral reefs are among the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth, and the coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and the Caribbean Sea are no exception. In this region, coral reefs support vibrant recreation, tourism, and fishing industries. However, climate change, including rising temperatures and ocean acidification, threaten the future health of corals. To asses climate-change related risks to coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, this study uses climate model simulations spanning 2015-2100 to understand future changes in temperature and ocean acidification. Although many regions of the Gulf of Mexico and the western Caribbean Sea will cross the critical coral reef bleaching thresholds by mid-century, we hope that this work will inform and streamline mitigation efforts to protect vulnerable coral reef ecosystems and the valuable benefits and resources they provide to local communities.

Key Points

  • Sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) surpass critical coral bleaching thresholds by mid-century in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) and Caribbean Sea
  • The rate and magnitude of SST changes in the GoM/Caribbean more strongly influence future coral reef vulnerability than ocean acidification
  • Future climate projections with high greenhouse gas forcing underscore the need for mitigation to ensure long-term coral reef preservation
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Climate resilience and adaptation in West African oyster fisheries: an expert-based assessment of the vulnerability of the oyster Crassostrea tulipa to climate change

Graphical abstract

Globally, over 85% of oyster reefs have been lost, and the combined effects of climate change, ocean acidification, and environmental degradation, including pollution and mangrove overharvesting, could further reduce global oyster fisheries in the coming decades. To understand the level of impact of climate change on the oyster fishery in West Africa, an expert-based vulnerability assessment to climate change was conducted for the West African mangrove oyster (Crassostrea tulipa, Lamarck 1819). Using a combination of the exposure of the oyster to climatic stressors (estuarine temperature, salinity, river flow, surface run-off, sea level rise, and estuarine circulation) together with an assessment of sensitivity to these stressors, we estimate the overall vulnerability of C. tulipa to climate change. A very high overall climate vulnerability score of 12 on a scale of 16 was calculated for C. tulipa. While the overall climate exposure score in the West African coastal region remained high, the high sensitivity of C. tulipa to hydrographic conditions of its habitat, in particular salinity, coupled with its sessile and habitat-specific nature, pushed the overall vulnerability to very high. Early life history settlement requirements, adult mobility, and sensitivity to salinity were the three most important biological and sensitivity attributes that determined the vulnerability score. By leaving each of these three sensitivity attributes out of the analysis, the overall vulnerability score was reduced to 9 (i.e., from very high to high). A negative directional effect of climate change, coupled with a low potential for change in distribution, threatens the C. tulipa fishery in a long-term adverse climate scenario. We recommend management efforts that incorporate climate resilience and adaptation practices to prioritize recruitment success, as well as the development of breeding lines with climate-resilient traits.

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Metagenomic shifts in mucus, tissue and skeleton of the coral Balanophyllia europaea living along a natural CO2 gradient

Using the Mediterranean coral Balanophyllia europaea naturally growing along a pH gradient close to Panarea island (Italy) as a model, we explored the role of host-associated microbiomes in coral acclimatization to ocean acidification (OA). Coral samples were collected at three sites along the gradient, mimicking seawater conditions projected for 2100 under different IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scenarios, and mucus, soft tissue and skeleton associated microbiomes were characterized by shotgun metagenomics. According to our findings, OA induced functional changes in the microbiomes genetic potential that could mitigate the sub-optimal environmental conditions at three levels: i. selection of bacteria genetically equipped with functions related to stress resistance; ii. shifts in microbial carbohydrate metabolism from energy production to maintenance of cell membranes and walls integrity; iii. gain of functions able to respond to variations in nitrogen needs at the holobiont level, such as genes devoted to organic nitrogen mobilization. We hence provided hypotheses about the functional role of the coral associated microbiome in favoring host acclimatation to OA, remarking on the importance of considering the crosstalk among all the components of the holobiont to unveil how and to what extent corals will maintain their functionality under forthcoming ocean conditions.

Continue reading ‘Metagenomic shifts in mucus, tissue and skeleton of the coral Balanophyllia europaea living along a natural CO2 gradient’

Elevated pCO2 induced physiological, molecular and metabolic changes in Nannochloropsis oceanica and its effects on trophic transfer

The rise of dissolution of anthropogenic CO2 into the ocean alters marine carbonate chemistry and then results in ocean acidification (OA). It has been observed that OA induced different effects on different microalgae. In this study, we explored the physiological and biochemical changes in Nannochloropsis oceanica in response to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide and tested the effect of ocean acidification (OA) on the food web through animal feeding experiments at a laboratory scale. We found that the levels of C, N, C/N, Fv/Fm, and photosynthetic carbon fixation rate of algae cells were increased under high carbon dioxide concentration. Under short-term acidification, soluble carbohydrate, protein, and proportion of unsaturated fatty acids in cells were significantly increased. Under long-term acidification, the proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (~33.83%) increased compared with that in control (~30.89%), but total protein decreased significantly compared with the control. Transcriptome and metabonomics analysis showed that the differential expression of genes in some metabolic pathways was not significant in short-term acidification, but most genes in the Calvin cycle were significantly downregulated. Under long-term acidification, the Calvin cycle, fatty acid biosynthesis, TAG synthesis, and nitrogen assimilation pathways were significantly downregulated, but the fatty acid β-oxidation pathway was significantly upregulated. Metabolome results showed that under long-term acidification, the levels of some amino acids increased significantly, while carbohydrates decreased, and the proportion of PUFAs increased. The rotifer Brachionus plicatilis grew slowly when fed on N. oceanica grown under short and long-term acidification conditions, and fatty acid profile analysis indicated that eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) levels increased significantly under long-term acidification in both N. oceanica (~9.48%) and its consumer B. Plicatilis (~27.67%). It can be seen that N. oceanica formed a specific adaptation mechanism to OA by regulating carbon and nitrogen metabolism, and at the same time caused changes of cellular metabolic components. Although PUFAs were increased, they still had adverse effects on downstream consumers.

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Long-term exposure to an extreme environment induces species-specific responses in corals’ photosynthesis and respiration rates

Extreme reef environments have become useful natural laboratories to investigate physiological specificities of species chronically exposed to future-like climatic conditions. The lagoon of Bouraké in New Caledonia (21°56′56.16′′ S; 125°59′36.82′′ E) is one of the only reef environments studied where the three main climatic stressors predicted to most severely impact corals occur. In this lagoon, temperatures, seawater pHT and dissolved oxygen chronically fluctuate between extreme and close-to-normal values (17.5–33.85 °C, 7.23–7.92 pHT units and 1.87–7.24 mg O2 L−1, respectively). In March 2020, the endosymbiont functions (chl a, cell density and photosynthesis) and respiration rates were investigated in seven coral species from this lagoon and compared with those of corals from an adjacent reference site using hour-long incubations mimicking present-day and future conditions. Corals originating from Bouraké displayed significant differences in these variables compared to reference corals, but these differences were species-specific. Photosynthetic rates of Bouraké corals were all significantly lower than those of reference corals but were partially compensated by higher chlorophyll contents. Respiration rates of the Bouraké corals were either lower or comparable to those of reference corals. Conversely, photosynthesis and respiration rates of most studied species were similar regardless of the incubation conditions, which mimicked either present-day or future conditions. This study supports previous work indicating that no unique response can explain corals’ tolerance to sub-optimal conditions and that a variety of mechanisms will be at play for corals in a changing world.

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Acclimation to low pH does not affect the thermal tolerance of Arbacia lixula progeny

As the ocean warms, the thermal tolerance of marine invertebrates is key to determining their distributional change, where acclimation to low pH may impact the thermal range of optimal development. We compared thermal tolerance of progeny from a low pH-acclimated sea urchin (Arbacia lixula) population from the CO2 vents of Ischia (Italy) and a nearby population living at ambient pH. The percentages of normally developing gastrulae and two-armed larvae were determined across 10 temperatures representing present and future temperature conditions (16–34°C). Vent-acclimated sea urchins showed a greater percentage of normal development at 24 h, with a larger optimal developmental temperature range than control sea urchins (12.3°C versus 5.4°C range, respectively). At 48 h, upper lethal temperatures for 50% survival with respect to ambient temperatures were similar between control (+6.8°C) and vent (+6.2°C) populations. Thus, acclimation to low pH did not impact the broad thermal tolerance of A. lixula progeny. With A. lixula‘s barrens-forming abilities, its wide thermotolerance and its capacity to acclimate to low pH, this species will continue to be an important ecological engineer in Mediterranean macroalgal ecosystems in a changing ocean.

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Chapter 5 – microbial adaptation to climate change and its impact on sustainable development

Microbial community has always been integrated with the ecological systems and is responsible for the maintenance of the natural balances. The current era of anthropogony has brought drastic consequences in the order of climate change. There have been many variations in the habitats of microorganisms, be it acidification of oceans or drought stress in soils of the agricultural lands. The adverse effects of these uncalled changes might lead to great losses of the ecosystem as some of these directly affect the growth and survival of the beneficial microorganisms. In order to maintain a healthy biome and balance, it is a necessity for the microbes to either inherit or develop the resistance or adaptation for the physical changes and acclimatize in order to maintain the biodiversity and conservation in an ecosystem. This chapter reviews some of the beneficial adaptation measures taken by the microorganisms to combat the climatic changes and environmental stress such as increase in the temperature or CO2 levels in the atmosphere which in turn helps the ecosystem to achieve sustainable development. It includes the microbes in varying ecosystems such as aquatic and terrestrial. It also details about the mechanisms in which the microbes help boost the ecosystem and what is the relevance of these adaptations in the upcoming challenges associated with climate change. Lastly, it highlights some of the measures or strategies including the next generation technologies which can be used to overcome the climatic change consequences in plants and animals by altering and modifying some of the adaptation techniques, making them better. These novel upcoming methods might be the solution for a better adaptation in the coming future years.

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Adaptive potential of coastal invertebrates to environmental stressors and climate change

Climate change presents multiple stressors that are impacting marine life. As carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase in the atmosphere, atmospheric and sea water temperatures increase. In addition, more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans, reducing pH and aragonite saturation state, resulting in ocean acidification (OA). Tightly coupled with OA is hypoxia due to deep stratified sea water becoming increasingly acidified and deoxygenated. The effects of these climate stressors have been studied in detail for only a few marine animal models. However, there are still many taxa and developmental stages in which we know very little about the impacts. Using genomic techniques, we examine the adaptive potential of three local marine invertebrates under three different climate stressors: marine disease exacerbated by thermal stress, OA, and combined stressors OA with hypoxia (OAH). As sea water temperatures rise, the prevalence of marine diseases increases, as seen in the sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS). The causation of SSWS is still widely debated; however reduced susceptibility to SSWS could aid in understanding disease progression. By examining genetic variation in Pisaster ochraceous collected during the SSWS outbreak, we observed weak separation between symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. OA has been widely studied in many marine organisms, including Crassostrea gigas. However, limited studies have parsed the effects of OA during settlement, with no studies assessing the functionality of settlement and how it is impacted by OA. We investigated the effects of OA on settlement and gene expression during the transition from larval to juvenile stages in Pacific oysters. While OA and hypoxia are common climate stressors examined, the combined effects have scarcely examined. Further, the impacts of OAH have been narrowly focused on a select few species, with many economically important organisms having no baseline information on how they will persist as OAH severity increases. To address these gaps in our knowledge, we measured genetic variation in metabolic rates during OA for the species Haliotis rufescens to assess their adaptive potential through heritability measurements. We discuss caveats and considerations when utilizing similar heritability estimate methods for other understudied organisms. Together, these studies will provide novel information on the biological responses and susceptibility of difference coastal species to stressors associated with global climate change. These experiments provide information on both the vulnerability of current populations and their genetic potential for adaptation to changing ocean conditions.

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The olfactory tract: basis for future evolution in response to rapidly changing ecological niches

Within the forebrain the olfactory sensory system is unique from other sensory systems both in the projections of the olfactory tract and the ongoing neurogenic potential, characteristics conserved across vertebrates. Olfaction plays a crucial role in behaviors such as mate choice, food selection, homing, escape from predators, among others. The olfactory forebrain is intimately associated with the limbic system, the region of the brain involved in learning, memory, and emotions through interactions with the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system. Previously thought to lack a limbic system, we now know that teleost fishes process emotions, have exceptional memories, and readily learn, behaviors that are often associated with olfactory cues. The association of neuromodulatory hormones, and more recently, the immune system, with odor cues underlies behaviors essential for maintenance and adaptation within natural ecological niches. Increasingly anthropogenic perturbations affecting ecosystems are impacting teleost fishes worldwide. Here we examine the role of the olfactory tract as the neural basis for the integration of environmental cues and resulting behaviors necessary for the regulation of biotic interactions that allow for future adaptation as the climate spins out of control.

“I should think we might fairly gauge the future of biological science, centuries ahead, by estimating the time it will take to reach a complete, comprehensive understanding of odor. It may not seem a profound enough problem to dominate all the life sciences, but it contains, piece by piece all the mysteries.”

—Lewis Thomas (1985).

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Effects of seawater acidification on echinoid adult stage: a review

The continuous release of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing the acidity of seawater worldwide, and the pH is predicted to be reduced by ~0.4 units by 2100. Ocean acidification (OA) is changing the carbonate chemistry, jeopardizing the life of marine organisms, and in particular calcifying organisms. Because of their calcareous skeleton and limited ability to regulate the acid–base balance, echinoids are among the organisms most threatened by OA. In this review, 50 articles assessing the effects of seawater acidification on the echinoid adult stage have been collected and summarized, in order to identify the most important aspects to consider for future experiments. Most of the endpoints considered (i.e., related to calcification, physiology, behaviour and reproduction) were altered, highlighting how various and subtle the effects of pH reduction can be. In general terms, more than 43% of the endpoints were modified by low pH compared with the control condition. However, animals exposed in long-term experiments or resident in CO2-vent systems showed acclimation capability. Moreover, the latitudinal range of animals’ distribution might explain some of the differences found among species. Therefore, future experiments should consider local variability, long-term exposure and multigenerational approaches to better assess OA effects on echinoids.

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Loss of transcriptional plasticity but sustained adaptive capacity after adaptation to global change conditions in a marine copepod

Adaptive evolution and phenotypic plasticity will fuel resilience in the geologically unprecedented warming and acidification of the earth’s oceans, however, we have much to learn about the interactions and costs of these mechanisms of resilience. Here, using 20 generations of experimental evolution followed by three generations of reciprocal transplants, we investigated the relationship between adaptation and plasticity in the marine copepod, Acartia tonsa, in future global change conditions (high temperature and high CO2). We found parallel adaptation to global change conditions in genes related to stress response, gene expression regulation, actin regulation, developmental processes, and energy production. However, reciprocal transplantation showed that adaptation resulted in a loss of transcriptional plasticity, reduced fecundity, and reduced population growth when global change-adapted animals were returned to ambient conditions or reared in low food conditions. However, after three successive transplant generations, global change-adapted animals were able to match the ambient-adaptive transcriptional profile. Concurrent changes in allele frequencies and erosion of nucleotide diversity suggest that this recovery occurred via adaptation back to ancestral conditions. These results demonstrate that while plasticity facilitated initial survival in global change conditions, it eroded after 20 generations as populations adapted, limiting resilience to new stressors and previously benign environments.

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Physiological acclimatization in Hawaiian corals following a 22-month shift in baseline seawater temperature and pH

Climate change poses a major threat to coral reefs. We conducted an outdoor 22-month experiment to investigate if coral could not just survive, but also physiologically cope, with chronic ocean warming and acidification conditions expected later this century under the Paris Climate Agreement. We recorded survivorship and measured eleven phenotypic traits to evaluate the holobiont responses of Hawaiian coral: color, Symbiodiniaceae density, calcification, photosynthesis, respiration, total organic carbon flux, carbon budget, biomass, lipids, protein, and maximum Artemia capture rate. Survivorship was lowest in Montipora capitata and only some survivors were able to meet metabolic demand and physiologically cope with future ocean conditions. Most M. capitata survivors bleached through loss of chlorophyll pigments and simultaneously experienced increased respiration rates and negative carbon budgets due to a 236% increase in total organic carbon losses under combined future ocean conditions. Porites compressa and Porites lobata had the highest survivorship and coped well under future ocean conditions with positive calcification and increased biomass, maintenance of lipids, and the capacity to exceed their metabolic demand through photosynthesis and heterotrophy. Thus, our findings show that significant biological diversity within resilient corals like Porites, and some genotypes of sensitive species, will persist this century provided atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are controlled. Since Porites corals are ubiquitous throughout the world’s oceans and often major reef builders, the persistence of this resilient genus provides hope for future reef ecosystem function globally.

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Rapid evolution fuels transcriptional plasticity to ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA) is postulated to affect the physiology, behavior, and life-history of marine species, but potential for acclimation or adaptation to elevated pCO2 in wild populations remains largely untested. We measured brain transcriptomes of six coral reef fish species at a natural volcanic CO2 seep and an adjacent control reef in Papua New Guinea. We show that elevated pCO2 induced common molecular responses related to circadian rhythm and immune system but different magnitudes of molecular response across the six species. Notably, elevated transcriptional plasticity was associated with core circadian genes affecting the regulation of intracellular pH and neural activity in Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Gene expression patterns were reversible in this species as evidenced upon reduction of CO2 following a natural storm-event. Compared with other species, Acpolyacanthus has a more rapid evolutionary rate and more positively selected genes in key functions under the influence of elevated CO2, thus fueling increased transcriptional plasticity. Our study reveals the basis to variable gene expression changes across species, with some species possessing evolved molecular toolkits to cope with future OA.

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Impacts of ocean warming and acidification on calcifying coral reef taxa: mechanisms responsible and adaptive capacity

Ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA) are two of the greatest global threats to the persistence of coral reefs. Calcifying reef taxa such as corals and coralline algae provide the essential substrate and habitat in tropical reefs but are at particular risk due to their susceptibility to both OW and OA. OW poses the greater threat to future reef growth and function, via its capacity to destabilise the productivity of both taxa, and to cause mass bleaching events and mortality of corals. Marine heatwaves are projected to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration over the coming decades, raising the question of whether coral reefs will be able to persist as functioning ecosystems and in what form. OA should not be overlooked, as its negative impacts on the calcification of reef-building corals and coralline algae will have consequences for global reef accretion. Given that OA can have negative impacts on the reproduction and early life stages of both coralline algae and corals, the interdependence of these taxa may result in negative feedbacks for reef replenishment. However, there is little evidence that OA causes coral bleaching or exacerbates the effects of OW on coral bleaching. Instead, there is some evidence that OA alters the photo-physiology of both taxa. Tropical coralline algal possess shorter generation times than corals, which could enable more rapid evolutionary responses. Future reefs will be dominated by taxa with shorter generation times and high plasticity, or those individuals inherently resistant and resilient to both marine heatwaves and OA.

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Shark teeth can resist ocean acidification

Ocean acidification can cause dissolution of calcium carbonate minerals in biological structures of many marine organisms, which can be exacerbated by warming. However, it is still unclear whether this also affects organisms that have body parts made of calcium phosphate minerals (e.g. shark teeth), which may also be impacted by the ‘corrosive’ effect of acidified seawater. Thus, we examined the effect of ocean acidification and warming on the mechanical properties of shark teeth (Port Jackson shark, Heterodontus portusjacksoni), and assessed whether their mineralogical properties can be modified in response to predicted near-future seawater pH (–0.3 units) and temperature (+3°C) changes. We found that warming resulted in the production of more brittle teeth (higher elastic modulus and lower mechanical resilience) that were more vulnerable to physical damage. Yet, when combined with ocean acidification, the durability of teeth increased (i.e. less prone to physical damage due to the production of more elastic teeth) so that they did not differ from those raised under ambient conditions. The teeth were chiefly made of fluorapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F), with increased fluoride content under ocean acidification that was associated with increased crystallinity. The increased precipitation of this highly insoluble mineral under ocean acidification suggests that the sharks could modulate and enhance biomineralization to produce teeth which are more resistant to corrosion. This adaptive mineralogical adjustment could allow some shark species to maintain durability and functionality of their teeth, which underpins a fundamental component of predation and sustenance of the trophic dynamics of future oceans.

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