Posts Tagged 'algae'

Feedback mechanisms stabilise degraded turf algal systems at a CO2 seep site

Human activities are rapidly changing the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems. Large-scale replacement of kelp forests and coral reefs with turf algal mats is resulting in homogenous habitats that have less ecological and human value. Ocean acidification has strong potential to substantially favour turf algae growth, which led us to examine the mechanisms that stabilise turf algal states. Here we show that ocean acidification promotes turf algae over corals and macroalgae, mediating new habitat conditions that create stabilising feedback loops (altered physicochemical environment and microbial community, and an inhibition of recruitment) capable of locking turf systems in place. Such feedbacks help explain why degraded coastal habitats persist after being initially pushed past the tipping point by global and local anthropogenic stressors. An understanding of the mechanisms that stabilise degraded coastal habitats can be incorporated into adaptive management to better protect the contribution of coastal systems to human wellbeing.

Continue reading ‘Feedback mechanisms stabilise degraded turf algal systems at a CO2 seep site’

Ocean acidification reduces skeletal density of hardground‐forming high‐latitude crustose coralline algae

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) function as foundation species by creating marine carbonate hardground habitats. High‐latitude species may be vulnerable to regional warming and acidification. Here, we report the results of an experiment investigating the impacts of CO2‐induced acidification (pCO2 ∼350, 490, 890, 3200 µatm) and temperature (∼6.5, 8.5, 12.5°C) on the skeletal density of two species of high‐latitude CCA: Clathromorphum compactum (CC) and C. nereostratum (CN). Skeletal density of both species significantly declined with pCO2. In CN, the density of previously deposited skeleton declined in the highest pCO2 treatment. This species was also unable to precipitate new skeleton at 12.5°C, suggesting that CN will be particularly sensitive to future warming and acidification. The decline in skeletal density exhibited by both species under future pCO2 conditions could reduce their skeletal strength, potentially rendering them more vulnerable to disturbance, and impairing their production of critical habitat in high‐latitude systems.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification reduces skeletal density of hardground‐forming high‐latitude crustose coralline algae’

The dual benefit of ocean acidification for the laminarialean kelp, Saccharina latissima: enhanced growth and reduced herbivory

The laminarialean kelp, Saccharina latissima, is a common macroalgae along rocky shorelines that is also frequently used in aquaculture. This study examined how ocean acidification may alter the growth of S. latissima as well as grazing on S. latissima by the gastropod, Lacuna vincta. Under elevated nutrients, S. latissima experienced significantly enhanced growth at pCO2 levels >1,200 µatm compared to ambient pCO2 (~400 µatm). Elevated pCO2 (>830 µatm) also significantly reduced herbivory of L. vincta grazing on S. latissima relative to ambient pCO2. There was no difference in grazing of S. latissima previously grown under elevated or ambient pCO2, suggesting lowered herbivory was due to harm to the gastropods rather than alteration of the biochemical composition of the kelp. Decreased herbivory was specifically elicited when L. vincta were exposed to elevated pCO2 in the absence of food for >18 h prior to grazing, with reduced grazing persisting 72 h. Elevated growth of S. latissima and reduced grazing by L. vincta at 1,200 µatm pCO2 combined to increase net growth rates of S. latissima by more than four-fold relative to ambient pCO2L. vincta consumed 70% of daily production by S. latissima under ambient pCO2 but only 38% and 9% at 800 µatm and 1,200 µatm, respectively. Collectively, decreased grazing by L. vincta coupled with enhanced growth of S. latissima under elevated pCO2 demonstrates that increased CO2 associated with climate change and/or coastal processes will dually benefit commercially and ecologically important kelps by both promoting growth and reducing grazing pressure. 

Continue reading ‘The dual benefit of ocean acidification for the laminarialean kelp, Saccharina latissima: enhanced growth and reduced herbivory’

Seaweed farms provide refugia from ocean acidification

Seaweed farming has been proposed as a strategy for adaptation to ocean acidification, but evidence is largely lacking. Changes of pH and carbon system parameters in surface waters of three seaweed farms along a latitudinal range in China were compared, on the weeks preceding harvesting, with those of the surrounding seawaters. Results confirmed that seaweed farming is efficient in buffering acidification, with Saccharina japonica showing the highest capacity of 0.10 pH increase within the aquaculture area, followed by Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis (ΔpH = 0.04) and Porphyra haitanensis (ΔpH = 0.03). The ranges of pH variability within seaweed farms spanned 0.14-0.30 unit during the monitoring, showing intense fluctuations which may also help marine organisms adapt to enhanced pH temporal variations in the future ocean. Deficit in pCO2 in waters in seaweed farms relative to control waters averaged 58.7 ± 15.9 μatm, ranging from 27.3 to 113.9 μatm across farms. However, ΔpH did not significantly differ between day and night. Dissolved oxygen and Ωarag were also elevated in surface waters at all seaweed farms, which are benefit for the survival of calcifying organisms. Seaweed farming, which unlike natural seaweed forests, is scalable and is not dependent on suitable substrate or light availability, could serve as a low-cost adaptation strategy to ocean acidification and deoxygenation and provide important refugia from ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Seaweed farms provide refugia from ocean acidification’

Ocean acidification may slow the pace of tropicalization of temperate fish communities

Poleward range extensions by warm-adapted sea urchins are switching temperate marine ecosystems from kelp-dominated to barren-dominated systems that favour the establishment of range-extending tropical fishes. Yet, such tropicalization may be buffered by ocean acidification, which reduces urchin grazing performance and the urchin barrens that tropical range-extending fishes prefer. Using ecosystems experiencing natural warming and acidification, we show that ocean acidification could buffer warming-facilitated tropicalization by reducing urchin populations (by 87%) and inhibiting the formation of barrens. This buffering effect of CO2 enrichment was observed at natural CO2 vents that are associated with a shift from a barren-dominated to a turf-dominated state, which we found is less favourable to tropical fishes. Together, these observations suggest that ocean acidification may buffer the tropicalization effect of ocean warming against urchin barren formation via multiple processes (fewer urchins and barrens) and consequently slow the increasing rate of tropicalization of temperate fish communities.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification may slow the pace of tropicalization of temperate fish communities’

Coastal ocean acidification and nitrogen loading facilitate invasions of the non-indigenous red macroalga, Dasysiphonia japonica

Coastal ecosystems are prone to multiple anthropogenic and natural stressors including eutrophication, acidification, and invasive species. While the growth of some macroalgae can be promoted by excessive nutrient loading and/or elevated pCO2, responses differ among species and ecosystems. Native to the western Pacific Ocean, the filamentous, turf-forming rhodophyte, Dasysiphonia japonica, appeared in estuaries of the northeastern Atlantic Ocean during the 1980s and the northwestern Atlantic Ocean during the late 2000s. Here, we report on the southernmost expansion of the D. japonica in North America and the effects of elevated nutrients and elevated pCO2 on the growth of D. japonica over an annual cycle in Long Island, New York, USA. Growth limitation of the macroalga varied seasonally. During winter and spring, when water temperatures were < 15 °C, growth was significantly enhanced by elevated pCO2 (p < 0.05). During summer and fall, when the water temperature was 15–24 °C, growth was significantly higher under elevated nutrient treatments (p < 0.05). When temperatures reached 28 °C, the macroalga grew poorly and was unaffected by nutrients or pCO2. The δ13C content of regional populations of D. japonica was −30‰, indicating the macroalga is an obligate CO2-user. This result, coupled with significantly increased growth under elevated pCO2 when temperatures were < 15 °C, indicates this macroalga is carbon-limited during colder months, when in situ pCO2 was significantly lower in Long Island estuaries compared to warmer months when estuaries are enriched in metabolically derived CO2. The δ15N content of this macroalga (9‰) indicated it utilized wastewater-derived N and its N limitation during warmer months coincided with lower concentrations of dissolved inorganic N in the water column. Given the stimulatory effect of nutrients on this macroalga and that eutrophication can promote seasonally elevated pCO2, this study suggests that eutrophic estuaries subject to peak annual temperatures < 28 °C may be particularly vulnerable to future invasions of D. japonica as ocean acidification intensifies. Conversely, nutrient reductions would serve as a management approach that would make coastal regions more resilient to invasions by this macroalga.

Continue reading ‘Coastal ocean acidification and nitrogen loading facilitate invasions of the non-indigenous red macroalga, Dasysiphonia japonica’

Effect of environmental history on the habitat-forming kelp Macrocystis pyrifera responses to ocean acidification and warming: a physiological and molecular approach

The capacity of marine organisms to adapt and/or acclimate to climate change might differ among distinct populations, depending on their local environmental history and phenotypic plasticity. Kelp forests create some of the most productive habitats in the world, but globally, many populations have been negatively impacted by multiple anthropogenic stressors. Here, we compare the physiological and molecular responses to ocean acidification (OA) and warming (OW) of two populations of the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera from distinct upwelling conditions (weak vs strong). Using laboratory mesocosm experiments, we found that juvenile Macrocystis sporophyte responses to OW and OA did not differ among populations: elevated temperature reduced growth while OA had no effect on growth and photosynthesis. However, we observed higher growth rates and NO3 assimilation, and enhanced expression of metabolic-genes involved in the NO3 and CO2 assimilation in individuals from the strong upwelling site. Our results suggest that despite no inter-population differences in response to OA and OW, intrinsic differences among populations might be related to their natural variability in CO2, NO3 and seawater temperatures driven by coastal upwelling. Further work including additional populations and fluctuating climate change conditions rather than static values are needed to precisely determine how natural variability in environmental conditions might influence a species’ response to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Effect of environmental history on the habitat-forming kelp Macrocystis pyrifera responses to ocean acidification and warming: a physiological and molecular approach’

Ocean acidification decreases grazing pressure but alters morphological structure in a dominant coastal seaweed

Ocean acidification driven by anthropogenic climate change is causing a global decrease in pH, which is projected to be 0.4 units lower in coastal shallow waters by the year 2100. Previous studies have shown that seaweeds grown under such conditions may alter their growth and photosynthetic capacity. It is not clear how such alterations might impact interactions between seaweed and herbivores, e.g. through changes in feeding rates, nutritional value, or defense levels. Changes in seaweeds are particularly important for coastal food webs, as they are key primary producers and often habitat-forming species. We cultured the habitat-forming brown seaweed Fucus vesiculosus for 30 days in projected future pCO2 (1100 μatm) with genetically identical controls in ambient pCO2 (400 μatm). Thereafter the macroalgae were exposed to grazing by Littorina littorea, acclimated to the relevant pCO2-treatment. We found increased growth (measured as surface area increase), decreased tissue strength in a tensile strength test, and decreased chemical defense (phlorotannins) levels in seaweeds exposed to high pCO2-levels. The herbivores exposed to elevated pCO2-levels showed improved condition index, decreased consumption, but no significant change in feeding preference. Fucoid seaweeds such as Fvesiculosus play important ecological roles in coastal habitats and are often foundation species, with a key role for ecosystem structure and function. The change in surface area and associated decrease in breaking force, as demonstrated by our results, indicate that Fvesiculosus grown under elevated levels of pCO2 may acquire an altered morphology and reduced tissue strength. This, together with increased wave energy in coastal ecosystems due to climate change, could have detrimental effects by reducing both habitat and food availability for herbivores.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification decreases grazing pressure but alters morphological structure in a dominant coastal seaweed’

Boosted fish abundance associated with Posidonia oceanica meadows in temperate shallow CO2 vents


  • Ocean acidification (OA) may induce shifts in the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems
  • CO2 vents were used to assess the effects of OA on fish assemblages associated with Posidonia oceanica
  • Posidonia structure and associated fish assemblages were compared at vents and off-vents using underwater visual census
  • Posidonia density increases and fish show boosted abundance but not reduced diversity at vents
  • Mediterranean Posidonia fish assemblages may cope with OA under near-future acidification level


Ocean acidification (OA) may induce major shifts in the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems. Studies in volcanic CO2 vents, where seawater is naturally acidified, have reported an overall simplification of fish assemblages structure, while some primary producers are likely to increase their biomass under elevated concentration of CO2. Here we used temperate shallow CO2 vents located around the coast of Ischia island (Italy) to assess the effects of OA on necto-benthic fish assemblages associated with the foundation seagrass species Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea. We compared P. oceanica meadow structure, its epiphytic community and the associated fish assemblage structure and diversity at vents with low pH sites and reference sites with ambient pH using underwater visual census strip transects, in two seasons (fall 2018 and summer 2019). Data were analysed using both univariate and multivariate statistical techniques. Results showed greater P. oceanica habitat complexity (i.e. shoot density) and lower abundance of epiphytic calcareous species (e.g. coralline algae) at the vents than reference sites. Total abundance of adult and juvenile fish was higher at vents than reference sites, while no differences were found for species richness and composition. Overall, the herbivore Sarpa salpa stands out among the species contributing the most to dissimilarity between vents and reference sites, showing higher abundances under OA conditions. This pattern could be explained by the combined effect of a positive response to the higher structural meadows complexity and the greater seagrasses palatability / nutritional value occurring at the vents, which may help herbivores to withstand the higher energetic cost to live under high pCO2 / low pH conditions. Our results indicate that necto-benthic fish assemblages associated with the Mediterranean P. oceanica ecosystem may cope with OA under the CO2 emission scenarios forecasted for the end of this century.

Continue reading ‘Boosted fish abundance associated with Posidonia oceanica meadows in temperate shallow CO2 vents’

Calcification does not necessarily protect articulated coralline algae from urchin grazing

Calcification is widely thought to be an adaptation that reduces the impact of herbivory. Recent work has shown that ocean acidification may negatively impact calcification of marine organisms, including coralline red algae, which could theoretically increase the susceptibility of corallines to benthic grazers. By manipulating calcium carbonate content of three articulated coralline algal species, we demonstrated that calcification has a variable and species-specific effect on urchin grazing. For two species, Corallina vancouveriensis and Corallina officinalis var. chilensis, reductions in calcium carbonate content did not cause a significant increase in urchin grazing, raising questions about the benefit of calcification in these species. For Calliarthron tuberculosum, reduced calcium carbonate content caused an increase in urchin grazing rates but only after calcium carbonate had been reduced by more than 15%, suggesting that only dramatic shifts in calcification would make C. tuberculosum more susceptible to urchin grazing. We hypothesize that the herbivory-reducing benefits of calcification likely depend upon coralline thallus morphology. Negative impacts of ocean acidification on calcification in coralline algae may not necessarily increase herbivory rates.

Continue reading ‘Calcification does not necessarily protect articulated coralline algae from urchin grazing’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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