Posts Tagged 'algae'

The potential of kelp Saccharina japonica in shielding Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas from elevated seawater pCO2 stress

Ocean acidification (OA) caused by elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration is predicted to have negative impacts on marine bivalves in aquaculture. However, to date, most of our knowledge is derived from short-term laboratory-based experiments, which are difficult to scale to real-world production. Therefore, field experiments, such as this study, are critical for improving ecological relevance. Due to the ability of seaweed to absorb dissolved carbon dioxide from the surrounding seawater through photosynthesis, seaweed has gained theoretical attention as a potential partner of bivalves in integrated aquaculture to help mitigate the adverse effects of OA. Consequently, this study investigates the impact of elevated pCO2 on the physiological responses of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas in the presence and absence of kelp (Saccharina japonica) using in situ mesocosms. For 30 days, mesocosms were exposed to six treatments, consisting of two pCO2 treatments (500 and 900 μatm) combined with three biotic treatments (oyster alone, kelp alone, and integrated kelp and oyster aquaculture). Results showed that the clearance rate (CR) and scope for growth (SfG) of C. gigas were significantly reduced by elevated pCO2, whereas respiration rates (MO2) and ammonium excretion rates (ER) were significantly increased. However, food absorption efficiency (AE) was not significantly affected by elevated pCO2. The presence of S. japonica changed the daytime pHNBS of experimental units by ~0.16 units in the elevated pCO2 treatment. As a consequence, CR and SfG significantly increased and MO2 and ER decreased compared to C. gigas exposed to elevated pCO2 without S. japonica. These findings indicate that the presence of S. japonica in integrated aquaculture may help shield C. gigas from the negative effects of elevated seawater pCO2.

Continue reading ‘The potential of kelp Saccharina japonica in shielding Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas from elevated seawater pCO2 stress’

A triple threat: ocean warming, acidification and rare earth elements exposure triggers a superior antioxidant response and pigment production in the adaptable Ulva rigida


  • La and Gd were accumulated in 24h;
  • Elimination of La and Gd did not occur in U. rigida;
  • La and Gd showed different accumulation and elimination patterns in future predicted scenarios;
  • La and Gd triggered an efficient antioxidant defence response in U. rigida;
  • REE and climate change exposure requested a superior antioxidant response.


Anthropogenic increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations will lead to a drop of 0.4 units of seawater pH and ocean warming up to 4.8°C by 2100. Contaminant’s toxicity is known to increase under a climate change scenario. Rare earth elements (REE) are emerging contaminants, that until now have no regulation regarding maximum concentration and discharge into the environment and have become vital to new technologies such as electric and hybrid-electric vehicle batteries, wind turbine generators and low-energy lighting. Studies of REE, namely Lanthanum (La) and Gadolinium (Gd), bioaccumulation, elimination, and toxicity in a multi-stressor environment (e.g., warming and acidification) are lacking. Hence, we investigated the algae phytoremediation capacity, the ecotoxicological responses and total chlorophyll and carotenoid contents in Ulva rigida during 7 days of co-exposure to La or Gd (15 µg L−1 or 10 µg L−1, respectively), and warming and acidification. Additionally, we assessed these metals elimination, after a 7-day phase. After one day of experiment La and Gd clearly showed accumulation/adsorption in different patterns, at future conditions. Unlikely for Gd, Warming and Acidification contributed to the lowest La accumulation, and increased elimination. Lanthanum and Gd triggered an adequate activation of the antioxidant defence system, by avoiding lipid damage. Nevertheless, REE exposure in a near-future scenario triggered an overproduction of ROS that requested an enhanced antioxidant response. Additionally, an increase in total chlorophyll and carotenoids could also indicate an unforeseen energy expense, as a response to a multi-stressor environment.

Continue reading ‘A triple threat: ocean warming, acidification and rare earth elements exposure triggers a superior antioxidant response and pigment production in the adaptable Ulva rigida’

The diel and seasonal heterogeneity of carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen in three types of macroalgal habitats

As concerns about ocean acidification continue to grow, the importance of macroalgal communities in buffering coastal seawater biogeochemistry through their metabolisms is gaining more attention. However, studies on diel and seasonal fluctuations in seawater chemistry within these communities are still rare. Here, we characterized the spatial and temporal heterogeneity in diel and seasonal dynamics of seawater carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen (DO) in three types of macroalgal habitats (UAM: ulvoid algal mat dominated, TAM: turf algal mat dominated, and SC: Sargassum horneri and coralline algae dominated). Our results show that diel fluctuations in carbonate parameters and DO varied significantly among habitat types and seasons due to differences in their biological metabolisms (photosynthesis and calcification) and each site’s hydrological characteristics. Specifically, carbonate parameters were most affected by biological metabolisms at the SC site, and by environmental variables at the UAM site. Also, we demonstrate that macroalgal communities reduced ocean acidification conditions when ocean temperatures supported photosynthesis and thereby the absorption of dissolved inorganic carbon. However, once temperatures exceeded the optimum ranges for macroalgae, respiration within these communities exceeded photosynthesis and increased CO2 concentrations, thereby exacerbating ocean acidification conditions. We conclude that the seawater carbonate chemistry is strongly influenced by the metabolisms of the dominant macroalgae within these different habitat types, which may, in turn, alter their buffering capacity against ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘The diel and seasonal heterogeneity of carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen in three types of macroalgal habitats’

Effects of shellfish and macro-algae IMTA in North China on the environment, inorganic carbon system, organic carbon system, and sea–air CO2 fluxes

Shellfish and macro-algae integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) contribute greatly to the sustainability of aquaculture. However, the effects of large-scale shellfish and macro-algae aquaculture on the functions of the ocean carbon sink are not clear. To clarify these effects, we studied the spatial and temporal changes of inorganic and organic carbon systems in seawater under different aquaculture modes (monoculture or polyculture of shellfish and macro-algae) in Sanggou Bay, together with the variation of other environmental factors. The results show that the summertime dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration in the shellfish culture zone was significantly lower than other zones (p < 0.05), with a minimum value of 7.07 ± 0.25 mg/L. The variation of pH and total alkalinity (TA) were large across different culture modes, and the seawater in the shellfish culture zone had the lowest pH and TA than the other zones. Seasonal environment and aquaculture modes significantly affected the variation of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), CO2 partial pressure (pCO2), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and particulate organic carbon (POC) concentrations. The highest values of DIC, pCO2, and POC appeared in summer, and the lowest appeared in winter. For DOC concentration, the lowest value appeared in autumn. Spatially, DIC and pCO2 were highest in the shellfish culture zone and lowest in the macro-algae culture zone, DOC was highest in the macro-algae culture zone and lowest in the shellfish culture zone, and POC was lower in the shellfish culture zone and macro-algae culture zone and higher in the remaining zones. The results of sea–air CO2 fluxes showed that except for the shellfish culture zone during summertime, which released CO2 to the atmosphere, all culture zones were the sinks of atmospheric CO2 during the culture period, with the whole bay being a strong CO2 sink during autumn and winter. In summary, large-scale shellfish–macro-algae IMTA plays an important role in the local carbon cycle and contributes to mitigating ocean acidification and hypoxia.

Continue reading ‘Effects of shellfish and macro-algae IMTA in North China on the environment, inorganic carbon system, organic carbon system, and sea–air CO2 fluxes’

Mangrove macroalgae increase their growth under ocean acidification: a study with Bostrychia (Rhodophyta) haplotypes from different biogeographic provinces

Increasing oceanic CO2 has caused a decrease in oceanic pH, a process termed ocean acidification (OA). OA may benefit fleshy macroalgae due to the increased availability of inorganic carbon sources for photosynthesis since they are tolerant of decreases in pH. In this study, we analyzed multiple physiological responses of Bostrychia montagnei and Bostrychia calliptera from two biogeographic provinces of Brazil (Tropical Southwestern Atlantic [TSA] and Warm Temperate Southwestern Atlantic [WTSA]) after culturing them at a set of bioreactors in three pH levels (7.2, 7.6, and 8.0). Two pH were decreased by CO2 enrichment into the culture medium. Molecular analyses using plastidial (rbcL-3P) and mitochondrial (COI-5P) DNA markers were also performed to identify genetic divergences between macroalgae from TSA and WTSA. Molecular evidence of COI-5P marker demonstrated that the specimens of both B. montagnei and B. calliptera from TSA and WTSA constitute different haplotypes, with a strong segregation between them. Macroalgae from both localities increased their growth in treatments of decreased pH with increased CO2 availability. Overall, physiological responses of the algae were not negatively affected by decreased pH. B. montagnei from TSA increased its polysaccharide and allophycocyanin content at pH 7.2, and B. montagnei from WTSA increased its low molecular weight carbohydrate content at pH 7.2 as well. Antioxidant activity — a proxy for physiological stress — was not affected by decreased pH. Our study indicates that haplotypes of B. montagnei and B. calliptera from TSA and WTSA can be relevant to CO2 sequestration in mangroves once they are tolerant of decreased pH and increase their growth under increased CO2 availability.

Continue reading ‘Mangrove macroalgae increase their growth under ocean acidification: a study with Bostrychia (Rhodophyta) haplotypes from different biogeographic provinces’

Differential responses of dominant and rare epiphytic bacteria from a submerged macrophyte to elevated CO2

Epiphytic bacteria develop complex interactions with their host macrophytes and play an important role in the ecological processes in freshwater habitats. However, how dominant and rare taxa respond to elevated atmospheric CO2 remains unclear. A manipulated experiment was carried out to explore the effects of elevated CO2 on the diversity or functional characteristics of leaf epiphytic dominant and rare bacteria from a submerged macrophyte. Three levels (high, medium, normal) of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) were applied to the overlying water. The physicochemical properties of the overlying water were measured. Elevated atmospheric CO2 significantly decreased the pH and dissolved oxygen (DO) of overlying water. Proteobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Planctomycetes, and Actinobacteria are the dominant phyla of leaf epiphytic bacteria from Myriophyllum spicatum, occupying over 90% of the accumulated relative abundances. The aquatic DIC level and further pH significantly drove the epiphytic community composition differences among the three DIC levels. For dominant epiphytic bacteria, the functional potential of nutrient processes and mutualistic relationships were strongly affected by a high DIC level, while responses of rare epiphytic bacteria were more related to trace element processes, pathogens, and defense strategies under a high DIC level. Our results showed the responses of epiphytic bacteria to elevated CO2 varied across dominant and rare taxa.

Continue reading ‘Differential responses of dominant and rare epiphytic bacteria from a submerged macrophyte to elevated CO2’

Increasing arsenic accumulation as an implication of climate change: a case study using red algae

Climate change due to an increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a global issue. It can impact aquatic environments by affecting water flow, pollutant transformation and migration, and other toxicant-related effects. We assessed the interactive effects of temperature warming and pH changes on variations in accumulation of total arsenic (AsT) in the red alga Sarcodia suae at different levels of arsenite (AsIII). Result showed that AsT variations in the alga were moderated by significant joint effects of warming temperature and/or increasing pH levels and their interactions with increasing AsIII concentrations. Our study suggests possible deleterious impacts on macroalgal populations due to toxicological effects associated with prevailing environmental conditions. Therefore, improved pollution management, climate change adaptation, and mitigation strategies are needed to deal with current environmental issues and As aggravation.

Continue reading ‘Increasing arsenic accumulation as an implication of climate change: a case study using red algae’

Kelp (Saccharina latissima) mitigates coastal ocean acidification and increases the growth of North Atlantic bivalves in lab experiments and on an oyster farm

Coastal zones can be focal points of acidification where the influx of atmospheric CO2 can be compounded by additional sources of acidity that may collectively impair calcifying organisms. While the photosynthetic action of macrophytes may buffer against coastal ocean acidification, such activity has not been well-studied, particularly among aquacultured seaweeds. Here, we report on field and laboratory experiments performed with North Atlantic populations of juvenile hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria), eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica), and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) grown with and without increased CO2 and with and without North Atlantic kelp (Saccharina latissima) over a range of aquaculture densities (0.3 – 2 g L-1). In all laboratory experiments, exposure to elevated pCO2 (>1,800 µatm) resulted in significantly reduced shell- and/or tissue-based growth rates of bivalves relative to control conditions. This impairment was fully mitigated when bivalves were exposed to the same acidification source but also co-cultured with kelp. Saturation states of aragonite were transformed from undersaturated to saturated in the acidification treatments with kelp present, while the acidification treatments remained undersaturated. In a field experiment, oysters grown near aquacultured kelp were exposed to higher pH waters and experienced significantly faster shell and tissue based growth rates compared to individuals grown at sites away from kelp. Collectively, these results suggest that photosynthesis by S. latissima grown at densities associated with aquaculture increased pH and decreased pCO2, fostering a carbonate chemistry regime that maximized the growth of juvenile bivalves. As S. latissima has been shown to benefit from increased CO2, growing bivalves and kelp together under current or future acidification scenarios may be a synergistically beneficial integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture approach.

Continue reading ‘Kelp (Saccharina latissima) mitigates coastal ocean acidification and increases the growth of North Atlantic bivalves in lab experiments and on an oyster farm’

The role of epiphytes in seagrass productivity under ocean acidification

Ocean Acidification (OA), due to rising atmospheric CO2, can affect the seagrass holobiont by changing the plant’s ecophysiology and the composition and functioning of its epiphytic community. However, our knowledge of the role of epiphytes in the productivity of the seagrass holobiont in response to environmental changes is still very limited. CO2 vents off Ischia Island (Italy) naturally reduce seawater pH, allowing to investigate the adaptation of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. (Delile) to OA. Here, we analyzed the percent cover of different epiphytic groups and the epiphytic biomass of P. oceanica leaves, collected inside (pH 6.9–7.9) and outside (pH 8.1–8.2) the CO2 vents. We estimated the contribution of epiphytes to net primary production (NPP) and respiration (R) of leaf sections collected from the vent and ambient pH sites in laboratory incubations. Additionally, we quantified net community production (NCP) and community respiration (CR) of seagrass communities in situ at vent and ambient pH sites using benthic chambers. Leaves at ambient pH sites had a 25% higher total epiphytic cover with encrusting red algae (32%) dominating the community, while leaves at vent pH sites were dominated by hydrozoans (21%). Leaf sections with and without epiphytes from the vent pH site produced and respired significantly more oxygen than leaf sections from the ambient pH site, showing an average increase of 47 ± 21% (mean ± SE) in NPP and 50 ± 4% in R, respectively. Epiphytes contributed little to the increase in R; however, their contribution to NPP was important (56 ± 6% of the total flux). The increase in productivity of seagrass leaves adapted to OA was only marginally reflected by the results from the in situ benthic chambers, underlining the complexity of the seagrass community response to naturally occurring OA conditions.

Continue reading ‘The role of epiphytes in seagrass productivity under ocean acidification’

Global climate change and the Baltic Sea ecosystem: direct and indirect effects on species, communities and ecosystem functioning

Climate change has multiple effects on Baltic Sea species, communities and ecosystem functioning through changes in physical and biogeochemical environmental characteristics of the sea. Associated indirect and secondary effects on species interactions, trophic dynamics and ecosystem function are expected to be significant. We review studies investigating species-, population- and ecosystem-level effects of abiotic factors that may change due to global climate change, such as temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, nutrient levels, and the more indirect biogeochemical and food web processes, primarily based on peer-reviewed literature published since 2010.

For phytoplankton, clear symptoms of climate change, such as prolongation of the growing season, are evident and can be explained by the warming, but otherwise climate effects vary from species to species and area to area. Several modelling studies project a decrease of phytoplankton bloom in spring and an increase in cyanobacteria blooms in summer. The associated increase in N:P ratio may contribute to maintaining the “vicious circle of eutrophication”. However, uncertainties remain because some field studies claim that cyanobacteria have not increased and some experimental studies show that responses of cyanobacteria to temperature, salinity and pH vary from species to species. An increase of riverine dissolved organic matter (DOM) may also decrease primary production, but the relative importance of this process in different sea areas is not well known. Bacteria growth is favoured by increasing temperature and DOM, but complex effects in the microbial food web are probable. Warming of seawater in spring also speeds up zooplankton growth and shortens the time lag between phytoplankton and zooplankton peaks, which may lead to decreasing of phytoplankton in spring. In summer, a shift towards smaller-sized zooplankton and a decline of marine copepod species has been projected.

In deep benthic communities, continued eutrophication promotes high sedimentation and maintains good food conditions for zoobenthos. If nutrient abatement proceeds, improving oxygen conditions will first increase zoobenthos biomass, but the subsequent decrease of sedimenting matter will disrupt the pelagic–benthic coupling and lead to a decreased zoobenthos biomass. In the shallower photic systems, heatwaves may produce eutrophication-like effects, e.g. overgrowth of bladderwrack by epiphytes, due to a trophic cascade. If salinity also declines, marine species such as bladderwrack, eelgrass and blue mussel may decline. Freshwater vascular plants will be favoured but they cannot replace macroalgae on rocky substrates. Consequently invertebrates and fish benefiting from macroalgal belts may also suffer. Climate-induced changes in the environment also favour establishment of non-indigenous species, potentially affecting food web dynamics in the Baltic Sea.

As for fish, salinity decline and continuing of hypoxia is projected to keep cod stocks low, whereas the increasing temperature has been projected to favour sprat and certain coastal fish. Regime shifts and cascading effects have been observed in both pelagic and benthic systems as a result of several climatic and environmental effects acting synergistically.

Knowledge gaps include uncertainties in projecting the future salinity level, as well as stratification and potential rate of internal loading, under different climate forcings. This weakens our ability to project how pelagic productivity, fish populations and macroalgal communities may change in the future. The 3D ecosystem models, food web models and 2D species distribution models would benefit from integration, but progress is slowed down by scale problems and inability of models to consider the complex interactions between species. Experimental work should be better integrated into empirical and modelling studies of food web dynamics to get a more comprehensive view of the responses of the pelagic and benthic systems to climate change, from bacteria to fish. In addition, to better understand the effects of climate change on the biodiversity of the Baltic Sea, more emphasis should be placed on studies of shallow photic environments.

The fate of the Baltic Sea ecosystem will depend on various intertwined environmental factors and on development of the society. Climate change will probably delay the effects of nutrient abatement and tend to keep the ecosystem in its “novel” state. However, several modelling studies conclude that nutrient reductions will be a stronger driver for ecosystem functioning of the Baltic Sea than climate change. Such studies highlight the importance of studying the Baltic Sea as an interlinked socio-ecological system.

Continue reading ‘Global climate change and the Baltic Sea ecosystem: direct and indirect effects on species, communities and ecosystem functioning’

The symbiotic relationship between the Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna, and epibiont coralline algae

The Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna, is one of the most abundant benthic marine invertebrates found in the intertidal zone of King George Island, Antarctica. The shell of N. concinna is often encrusted with the coralline algae Clathromorphum obtectulum. In this study, to reveal the relationship between the limpet and coralline algae, we examined how the coralline algae affect the physical condition (survival and health) and morphology of the limpet. We cultured the limpets for 22 days and compared mortality, weight, condition factor (CF), fatty acid content, and the structure of the shell surface between limpets both with and without coralline algae in the laboratory. We also measured the environmental factors (i.e., temperature, pH, and salinity) of the seawater at each sampling site and the CF of the limpets and correlated them with coverage of coralline algae. The presence of coralline algae significantly increased the mortality of the limpets by 40% and the shell weight by 1.4-fold but did not affect the CF. Additionally, coralline algae altered the fatty acid profiles related to the limpet’s lipid metabolism (saturated fatty acids (SFA) and some polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)). Specifically, C16:0, C17:0, C18:0, and total SFA increased, whereas C18:2 and C18:3 decreased. However, observations with a scanning electron microscope showed that shell damage in limpets with coralline algae was much less than in limpets without coralline algae, suggesting that coralline algae may provide protection against endolithic algae. The area of coralline algae on the limpet shell was positively correlated with the pH and temperature of the seawater. The results suggest that although coralline algae are generally assumed to be parasitical, the relationship between N. concinna and coralline algae may change to mutualism under certain conditions.

Continue reading ‘The symbiotic relationship between the Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna, and epibiont coralline algae’

Structural and functional analyses of motile fauna associated with Cystoseira brachycarpa along a gradient of ocean acidification in a CO2-vent system off Panarea (Aeolian Islands, Italy)

Ocean acidification (OA), one of the main climate-change-related stressors linked to increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, is considered an important threat to marine biodiversity and habitats. Studies on CO2-vents systems, naturally acidified environments that mimic future ocean scenarios, help to explore the sensitivity of species and to understand how benthic communities rearrange their structure and functioning under the pressure of OA. We addressed this problem by studying the benthic invertebrates associated with a habitat-forming brown alga (Cystoseira brachycarpa) in the Bottaro crater vents system off Panarea island (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy), by sampling along an OA gradient from the proximity of the main venting area (station B3, pH 7.9) to a control zone (B1 station, pH 8.1). Samples were collected in September 2016 and 2018. A total of 184 taxa and 23 different functional traits have been identified, considering feeding habit, motility, size, reproductive and developmental biology, and occurrence of calcareous structures. Invertebrates are distributed according to the distance from the high venting zone and low pH levels and results very consistent between the two investigated years. In the low-pH area (B3), 43% of the species are selected. The functional traits of the fauna mirror this zonation pattern, mainly changing the relative proportion of the number of individuals of the various functional guilds along the OA gradient. Invertebrates inhabiting the low-pH zone are mainly composed of weakly or non-calcified species, with small size, burrower/tubicolous habit, omnivorous or suspension feeders, and with direct development and brooding habit. In the other stations, heavily calcified forms, herbivore and herbivore/detritivore, and with medium (1–5 cm) and large (>5 cm) sizes prevail, showing indirect benthic and planktic development. The taxonomic analysis, coupled with functional aspects, increases our prediction of which traits could be potentially more advantageous for species to adapt to the hypothesized scenarios of OA, and identify present and future winner and/or loser organisms in the future ocean of the Anthropocene.

Continue reading ‘Structural and functional analyses of motile fauna associated with Cystoseira brachycarpa along a gradient of ocean acidification in a CO2-vent system off Panarea (Aeolian Islands, Italy)’

High CO2 inhibits substratum exploration and settlement of coral larvae

Biological and physical factors affecting coral recruitment are critical in influencing the recovery of coral communities after disturbance. While ocean acidification (OA) can reduce coral settlement and the early growth of coral recruits, the impact of OA on coral larval swimming behavior is unknown. Here, we investigated the effects of elevated CO2 on the swimming behavior and settlement of coral larvae of 2 common Acropora species. Larvae were exposed to 4 CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) conditions consistent with the current Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change predictions for the next few centuries (pCO2: 393, 853, 1485, 3022 µatm; pH: 8.1, 7.8, 7.6, 7.3) in 2 laboratory experiments. We found that bottom exploration, expressed as the proportion of A. cytherea and A. pulchra larvae present in the bottom part of experimental cylinders, decreased by 92 and 98%, respectively, from the ambient to highest CO2 treatment. When offered the choice to settle on the crustose coralline algae Titanoderma prototypum, a well-known positive settlement cue, the percentage of larvae that settled on the crustose coralline algae fragments declined rapidly as pCO2 increased, with no larvae settling in the highest CO2 treatment. These results suggest that OA may negatively affect coral recruitment via direct effects on larval swimming behavior, with larvae avoiding benthic probing in response to high CO2.

Continue reading ‘High CO2 inhibits substratum exploration and settlement of coral larvae’

Low-pH seawater alters indirect interactions in rocky-shore tidepools

Ocean acidification is expected to degrade marine ecosystems, yet most studies focus on organismal-level impacts rather than ecological perturbations. Field studies are especially sparse, particularly ones examining shifts in direct and indirect consumer interactions. Here we address such connections within tidepool communities of rocky shores, focusing on a three-level food web involving the keystone sea star predator, Pisaster ochraceus, a common herbivorous snail, Tegula funebralis, and a macroalgal basal resource, Macrocystis pyrifera. We demonstrate that during nighttime low tides, experimentally manipulated declines in seawater pH suppress the anti-predator behavior of snails, bolstering their grazing, and diminishing the top-down influence of predators on basal resources. This attenuation of top-down control is absent in pools maintained experimentally at higher pH. These findings suggest that as ocean acidification proceeds, shifts of behaviorally mediated links in food webs could change how cascading effects of predators manifest within marine communities.

Continue reading ‘Low-pH seawater alters indirect interactions in rocky-shore tidepools’

Using macroalgae to address UN Sustainable Development goals through CO2 remediation and improvement of the aquaculture environment

Among efforts to explore ways to achieve carbon neutrality globally or regionally, photosynthetic carbon sequestration by algae has been identified as having immense potential. Algae play a crucial role in providing the base of aquatic ecosystems, driving important biogeochemical cycles in oceans and freshwaters and, in so doing, act as a critical component for CO2 drawdown from the atmosphere and ameliorating global change. Furthermore, algae are used extensively in some societies as a source of food and have potential as feedstock for biofuels and as sources of bioactive chemicals. Such activities align strongly with a number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Here we discuss how marine macroalgae might contribute to several of these goals by exploring their potential to enhance aquaculture, contribute to “Blue Carbon” drawdown of CO2 to ameliorate climate change (UN SDGs 13,14) and provide biomass as feedstock for biofuels (UN SDG 7) to reduce reliance on fossil fuel combustion. Though further work is required, we suggest that farming macroalgae in air has great potential for mitigation of CO2 emissions and improvement of aquaculture environments.

Summary: Photosynthetic activity of macroalgae, in addition to driving biosynthesis and biomass accumulation, can cause arise in pH due to CO2 depletion/HCO3. This can buffer the pH decrease associated with anthropogenic CO2 increases and ameliorate the effects of ocean acidification. Though increasing in magnitude, macroalgal aquaculture still represents only asmall fraction of the Cdrawdown by wild macroalgae populations and currently accounts for drawdown of an even lower fraction of global CO2 emissions. Nonetheless, scaling up of intensive macroalgal aquaculture could be one approach to contribute more to ameliorating anthropogenic CO2 emissions and ocean acidification. Modification of IMTA involving growth of the algae in air rather than in seawater could prove auseful means to help stabilize fluctuations in oxygen and pH in aquaculture operations.

Continue reading ‘Using macroalgae to address UN Sustainable Development goals through CO2 remediation and improvement of the aquaculture environment’

In contrast to diatoms, cryptophytes are susceptible to iron limitation, but not to ocean acidification

Previous field studies in the Southern Ocean (SO) indicated an increased occurrence and dominance of cryptophytes over diatoms due to climate change. To gain a better mechanistic understanding of how the two ecologically important SO phytoplankton groups cope with ocean acidification (OA) and iron (Fe) availability, we chose two common representatives of Antarctic waters, the cryptophyte Geminigera cryophila and the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia subcurvata. Both species were grown at 2°C under different pCO2 (400 vs. 900 μatm) and Fe (0.6 vs. 1.2 nM) conditions. For P. subcurvata, an additional high pCO2 level was applied (1400 μatm). At ambient pCO2 under low Fe supply, growth of G. cryophila almost stopped while it remained unaffected in P. subcurvata. Under high Fe conditions, OA was not beneficial for P. subcurvata, but stimulated growth and carbon production of G. cryophila. Under low Fe supply, P. subcurvata coped much better with OA than the cryptophyte, but invested more energy into photoacclimation. Our study reveals that Fe limitation was detrimental for the growth of G. cryophila and suppressed the positive OA effect. The diatom was efficient in coping with low Fe, but was stressed by OA while both factors together strongly impacted its growth. The distinct physiological response of both species to OA and Fe limitation explains their occurrence in the field. Based on our results, Fe availability is an important modulator of OA effects on SO phytoplankton, with different implications on the occurrence of cryptophytes and diatoms in the future.

Continue reading ‘In contrast to diatoms, cryptophytes are susceptible to iron limitation, but not to ocean acidification’

Influence of ocean warming and acidification on habitat-forming coralline algae and their associated molluscan assemblages


  • We assessed whether ocean warming and acidification impacts habitat-forming coralline algal turfs and their associated molluscan assemblages.
  • Ocean warming negatively impacted the cover and photosynthetic efficiency of coralline fronds.
  • Ocean acidification caused a 56% and a 59% reduction in the biomass and frond density of coralline turfs, respectively.
  • Ocean acidification caused a decrease in the richness and abundance of molluscs in coralline turfs by 43% and 61%, respectively.


When ocean warming and acidification impact habitat-forming species, substantial alterations to the supported ecological communities and associated ecosystems are likely to follow. Here, we used experimental manipulations to test the hypotheses that ocean warming and acidification would negatively affect habitat-forming coralline algal turfs and the diverse molluscan assemblages they support. Boulders covered in a turf of Amphiroa anceps with intact faunal assemblages were subjected to an orthogonal combination of current (~ 23 °C) and future (~ 26 °C) ocean temperatures, and current (~ 430 µatm) and future (~ 880 µatm) seawater pCO2. Ocean warming negatively impacted the cover and photosynthetic efficiency of Amphiroa fronds, whereas ocean acidification caused the biomass per unit area and the frond density of Amphiroa turf to be 56% and 59% less than current ocean conditions, respectively. Ocean acidification also caused a significant change in the structure of molluscan assemblages associated with Amphiroa turf, which included a 43% and a 61% reduction in the species richness and overall abundance of molluscs, respectively. The results demonstrate that coralline algal turfs are particularly vulnerable to ocean climate change, which has implications for the biodiversity and ecosystem functions supported by these globally distributed foundation species.

Continue reading ‘Influence of ocean warming and acidification on habitat-forming coralline algae and their associated molluscan assemblages’

Modelling antifouling compounds of macroalgal holobionts in current and future pH conditions

Marine macroalgae are important ecosystem engineers in marine coastal habitats. Macroalgae can be negatively impacted through excessive colonization by harmful bacteria, fungi, microalgae, and macro-colonisers and thus employ a range of chemical compounds to minimize such colonization. Recent research suggests that environmental pH conditions potentially impact the functionality of such chemical compounds. Here we predict if and how naturally fluctuating pH conditions and future conditions caused by ocean acidification will affect macroalgal (antifouling) compounds and thereby potentially alter the chemical defence mediated by these compounds. We defined the relevant ecological pH range, analysed and scored the pH-sensitivity of compounds with antifouling functions based on their modelled chemical properties before assessing their distribution across the phylogenetic macroalgal groups, and the proportion of sensitive compounds for each investigated function. For some key compounds, we also predicted in detail how the associated ecological function may develop across the pH range. The majority of compounds were unaffected by pH, but compounds containing phenolic and amine groups were found to be particularly sensitive to pH. Future pH changes due to predicted average open ocean acidification pH were found to have little effect. Compounds from Rhodophyta were mainly pH-stable. However, key algal species amongst Phaeophyceae and Chlorophyta were found to rely on highly pH-sensitive compounds for their chemical defence against harmful bacteria, microalgae, fungi, and biofouling by macro-organisms. All quorum sensing disruptive compounds were found the be unaffected by pH, but the other ecological functions were all conveyed in part by pH-sensitive compounds. For some ecological keystone species, all of their compounds mediating defence functions were found to be pH-sensitive based on our calculations, which may not only affect the health and fitness of the host alga resulting in host breakdown but also alter the associated ecological interactions of the macroalgal holobiont with micro and macrocolonisers, eventually causing ecosystem restructuring and the functions (e.g. habitat provision) provided by macroalgal hosts. Our study investigates a question of fundamental importance because environments with fluctuating or changing pH are common and apply not only to coastal marine habitats and estuaries but also to freshwater environments or terrestrial systems that are subject to acid rain. Hence, whilst warranting experimental validation, this investigation with macroalgae as model organisms can serve as a basis for future investigations in other aquatic or even terrestrial systems.

Continue reading ‘Modelling antifouling compounds of macroalgal holobionts in current and future pH conditions’

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.

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

Coupled changes in pH, temperature and dissolved oxygen impact the physiology and ecology of herbivorous kelp forest grazers

Understanding species’ responses to upwelling may be especially important in light of ongoing environmental change. Upwelling frequency and intensity are expected to increase in the future, while ocean acidification and deoxygenation are expected to decrease the pH and dissolved oxygen of upwelled waters. However, the acute effects of a single upwelling event and the integrated effects of multiple upwelling events on marine organisms are poorly understood. Here, we use in situ measurements of pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen to characterize the covariance of environmental conditions within upwelling-dominated kelp forest ecosystems. We then test the effects of acute (0-3 days) and chronic (1-3 month) upwelling on the performance of two species of kelp forest grazers, the echinoderm, Mesocentrotus franciscanus, and the gastropod, Promartynia pulligo. We exposed organisms to static conditions in a regression design to determine the shape of the relationship between upwelling and performance and provide insights into the potential effects in a variable environment. We found that respiration, grazing, growth, and net calcification decline linearly with increasing upwelling intensity for M. francicanus over both acute and chronic timescales. Promartynia pulligo exhibited decreased respiration, grazing, and net calcification with increased upwelling intensity after chronic exposure, but we did not detect an effect over acute timescales or on growth after chronic exposure. Given the highly correlated nature of pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen in the California Current, our results suggest the relationship between upwelling intensity and growth in the 3-month trial could potentially be used to estimate growth integrated over long-term dynamic oceanographic conditions for M. franciscanus. Together, these results indicate current exposure to upwelling may reduce species performance and predicted future increases in upwelling frequency and intensity could affect ecosystem function by modifying the ecological roles of key species.

Continue reading ‘Coupled changes in pH, temperature and dissolved oxygen impact the physiology and ecology of herbivorous kelp forest grazers’

  • Reset


OA-ICC Highlights

%d bloggers like this: