Posts Tagged 'algae'

Community composition in mangrove ponds with pulsed hypoxic and acidified conditions

The potential resilience of biological communities to accelerating rates of global change has received considerable attention. We suggest that some shallow aquatic ecosystems, where temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), and pH can exhibit extreme variation on short timescales of hours or days, provide an opportunity to develop a mechanistic understanding of species persistence and community assembly under harsh environmental conditions. Extreme diel swings in DO and pH have been observed in eutrophic temperate ecosystems, and here, we describe a similar phenomenon consistently occurring across tropical sites that included relatively remote atolls on the Meso-American barrier reefs in Belize and oligotrophic coastal lagoons in Panama. In particular, we documented large daily swings in temperature, DO, and pH within shallow ponds of Caribbean mangrove forests. Water in seven of 13 ponds went hypoxic (<2 mg/L DO) during the multiday sampling period, and pH dipped nightly to low levels, falling below 7.0 in some ponds. Minimum pH and minimum DO were correlated, and showed a similar relationship in Belize and Panama, suggesting a common mechanism produced diel cycles. Remarkably, most ponds exhibited high abundance of macroalgae, macroinvertebrates, and fish, despite potentially stressful abiotic conditions. Although fish diversity was negatively correlated with pH range, our overall results from the ponds suggest that many species are sufficiently resistant such that a functionally complex community can persist in the midst of pulsed stressful conditions. We propose that the mangrove ponds could serve as a model ecosystem for investigating resistance and resilience of coastal marine communities to global change factors such as climate change, hypoxia, and ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Community composition in mangrove ponds with pulsed hypoxic and acidified conditions’

Macroalgal spore dysfunction: ocean acidification delays and weakens adhesion

Early life stages of marine organisms are predicted to be vulnerable to ocean acidification. For macroalgae, reproduction and population persistence rely on spores to settle, adhere and continue the algal life cycle, yet the effect of ocean acidification on this critical life stage has been largely overlooked. We explicitly tested the biomechanical impact of reduced pH on early spore adhesion. We developed a shear flume to examine the effect of reduced pH on spore attachment time and strength in two intertidal rhodophyte macroalgae, one calcified (Corallina vancouveriensis) and one non-calcified (Polyostea robusta). Reduced pH delayed spore attachment of both species by 40-52% and weakened attachment strength in C. vancouveriensis, causing spores to dislodge at lower flow-induced shear forces, but had no effect on the attachment strength of P. robusta. Results are consistent with our prediction that reduced pH disrupts proper curing and gel formation of spore adhesives (anionic polysaccharides and glycoproteins) via protonation and cation displacement, although experimental verification is needed. Our results demonstrate that ocean acidification negatively, and differentially, impacts spore adhesion in two macroalgae. If results hold in field conditions, reduced ocean pH has the potential to impact macroalgal communities via spore dysfunction, regardless of the physiological tolerance of mature thalli.

Continue reading ‘Macroalgal spore dysfunction: ocean acidification delays and weakens adhesion’

Reduced spore germination explains sensitivity of reef-building algae to climate change stressors

Reduced seawater pH and changes in carbonate chemistry associated with ocean acidification (OA) decrease the recruitment of crustose coralline algae (CCAcf.), an important coral-reef builder. However, it is unclear whether the observed decline in recruitment is driven by impairment of spore germination, or post-settlement processes (e.g. space competition). To address this, we conducted an experiment using a dominant CCA, Porolithon cf. onkodes to test the independent and combined effects of OA, warming, and irradiance on its germination success and early development. Elevated CO2 negatively affected several processes of spore germination, including formation of the germination disc, initial growth, and germling survival. The magnitude of these effects varied depending on the levels of temperature and irradiance. For example, the combination of high CO2 and high temperature reduced formation of the germination disc, but this effect was independent of irradiance levels, while spore abnormalities increased under high CO2 and high temperature particularly in combination with low irradiance intensity. This study demonstrates that spore germination of CCA is impacted by the independent and interactive effects of OA, increasing seawater temperature and irradiance intensity. For the first time, this provides a mechanism for how the sensitivity of critical early life history processes to global change may drive declines of adult populations of key marine calcifiers.

Continue reading ‘Reduced spore germination explains sensitivity of reef-building algae to climate change stressors’

Species interactions can shift the response of a maerl bed community to ocean acidification and warming (update)

Predicted ocean acidification and warming are likely to have major implications for marine organisms, especially marine calcifiers. However, little information is available on the response of marine benthic communities as a whole to predicted changes. Here, we experimentally examined the combined effects of temperature and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) increases on the response of maerl bed assemblages, composed of living and dead thalli of the free-living coralline alga Lithothamnion corallioides, epiphytic fleshy algae, and grazer species. Two 3-month experiments were performed in the winter and summer seasons in mesocosms with four different combinations of pCO2 (ambient and high pCO2) and temperature (ambient and +3 °C). The response of maerl assemblages was assessed using metabolic measurements at the species and assemblage scales. This study suggests that seasonal variability represents an important driver influencing the magnitude and the direction of species and community response to climate change. Gross primary production and respiration of assemblages was enhanced by high pCO2 conditions in the summer. This positive effect was attributed to the increase in epiphyte biomass, which benefited from higher CO2 concentrations for growth and primary production. Conversely, high pCO2 drastically decreased the calcification rates in assemblages. This response can be attributed to the decline in calcification rates of living L. corallioides due to acidification and increased dissolution of dead L. corallioides. Future changes in pCO2 and temperature are likely to promote the development of non-calcifying algae to the detriment of the engineer species L. corallioides. The development of fleshy algae may be modulated by the ability of grazers to regulate epiphyte growth. However, our results suggest that predicted changes will negatively affect the metabolism of grazers and potentially their ability to control epiphyte abundance. We show here that the effects of pCO2 and temperature on maerl bed communities were weakened when these factors were combined. This underlines the importance of examining multi-factorial approaches and community-level processes, which integrate species interactions, to better understand the impact of global change on marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Species interactions can shift the response of a maerl bed community to ocean acidification and warming (update)’

Growth, ammonium metabolism, and photosynthetic properties of Ulva australis (Chlorophyta) under decreasing pH and ammonium enrichment

The responses of macroalgae to ocean acidification could be altered by availability of macronutrients, such as ammonium (NH4+). This study determined how the opportunistic macroalga, Ulva australis responded to simultaneous changes in decreasing pH and NH4+ enrichment. This was investigated in a week-long growth experiment across a range of predicted future pHs with ambient and enriched NH4+ treatments followed by measurements of relative growth rates (RGR), NH4+ uptake rates and pools, total chlorophyll, and tissue carbon and nitrogen content. Rapid light curves (RLCs) were used to measure the maximum relative electron transport rate (rETRmax) and maximum quantum yield of photosystem II (PSII) photochemistry (Fv/Fm). Photosynthetic capacity was derived from the RLCs and included the efficiency of light harvesting (α), slope of photoinhibition (β), and the light saturation point (Ek). The results showed that NH4+ enrichment did not modify the effects of pH on RGRs, NH4+ uptake rates and pools, total chlorophyll, rETRmax, α, β, Fv/Fm, tissue C and N, and the C:N ratio. However, Ek was differentially affected by pH under different NH4+ treatments. Ek increased with decreasing pH in the ambient NH4+ treatment, but not in the enriched NH4+ treatment. NH4+ enrichment increased RGRs, NH4+ pools, total chlorophyll, rETRmax, α, β, Fv/Fm, and tissue N, and decreased NH4+ uptake rates and the C:N ratio. Decreased pH increased total chlorophyll content, rETRmax, Fv/Fm, and tissue N content, and decreased the C:N ratio. Therefore, the results indicate that U. australis growth is increased with NH4+ enrichment and not with decreasing pH. While decreasing pH influenced the carbon and nitrogen metabolisms of U. australis, it did not result in changes in growth.

Continue reading ‘Growth, ammonium metabolism, and photosynthetic properties of Ulva australis (Chlorophyta) under decreasing pH and ammonium enrichment’

The effects of eutrophication and acidification on the ecophysiology of Ulva pertusa Kjellman

In coastal environments, acidification and eutrophication affect the physiology of marine macroalgae. We investigated the responses of Ulva pertusa Kjellman (Ulvales, Chlorophyta) under such conditions. Samples were cultured at two different pH settings (low, 7.5; high, 8.0) and at three different ammonium levels (low, 4; medium, 60; high, 120 μM NH4+). Our objective was to analyze the influence that elevated CO2 and NH4+ might have on pH, oxygen evolution, rates of nutrient uptake, chlorophyll fluorescence, growth, and C/N ratio of that organism. Variability in pH value was enhanced under low pH/high NH4+ and was significantly different (p < 0.05) from changes measured when the high pH/low NH4+ combination was applied. Rates of NH4+ uptake and relative growth rates by U. pertusa were increased under low pH/high NH4+ conditions and that response was significantly different (p < 0.05) from the other treatments. The rate of photosynthetic oxygen evolution and chlorophyll fluorescence were increased under elevated NH4+ concentrations (p < 0.05). However, the C/N ratio of U. pertusa was not affected by higher concentrations of CO2 and NH4+ (p > 0.05). Our results indicated that the physiological reactions of this alga were heightened when exposed to either the elevated combination of CO2/NH4+ or even when only the level of NH4+ was raised. Although such excessive growth can lead to bloom formations in coastal areas, this species also has greater capacity for taking up nutrients and dissolved inorganic carbon.

Continue reading ‘The effects of eutrophication and acidification on the ecophysiology of Ulva pertusa Kjellman’

The future of seaweed aquaculture in a rapidly changing world

Human activities are having increasingly negative impacts on the natural environment. The rapidly expanding human population has led to a shortage of resources and the ability to support the growing population sustainably is a major challenge for the future. Coastal environments, including natural seaweed communities, provide a range of important ecosystem services. Since seaweed aquaculture beds (SABs) provide many of the services associated with natural seaweed communities they have a potential role in providing solutions such as CO2 sequestration, provision of food and the supply of useful chemicals. However, the productivity of natural seaweed communities and SABs is under threat from the rapid changes in climate that the planet is experiencing. Here we examine the likely effects of global change, in particular elevated CO2 and ocean acidification, increased temperatures and elevated levels of UVB, on the performance of seaweeds. While it is clear that rising temperatures and elevated CO2 and their interactions with other environmental factors are likely to have profound effects on macroalgal production, such effects are likely to be species dependent. We also examine the fate of organic matter from seaweeds and the potential for using SAB productivity as a contributor to blue carbon as a strategy for amelioration of increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. There is considerable potential for increased drawdown of CO2 by SABs, though its effectiveness in amelioration of atmospheric CO2 increase will depend on the fate of the resulting biomass.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book