Posts Tagged 'algae'

Predicting potential impacts of ocean acidification on marine calcifiers from the Southern Ocean

Understanding the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to ocean acidification is a critical issue, especially in the Southern Ocean (SO), which is likely to be the one of the first, and most severely affected regions. Since the industrial revolution, ~30% of anthropogenic CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans. Seawater pH levels have already decreased by 0.1 and are predicted to decline by ~ 0.3 by the year 2100. This process, known as ocean acidification (OA), is shallowing the saturation horizon, which is the depth below which calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolves, likely increasing the vulnerability of many marine calcifiers to dissolution. The negative impact of OA may be seen first in species depositing more soluble CaCO3 mineral phases such as aragonite and high-Mg calcite (HMC). These negative effects may become even exacerbated by increasing sea temperatures. Here we combine a review and a quantitative meta-analysis to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge about skeletal mineralogy of major taxonomic groups of SO marine calcifiers and to make predictions about how OA might affect different taxa. We consider their geographic range, skeletal mineralogy, biological traits and potential strategies to overcome OA. The meta-analysis of studies investigating the effects of the OA on a range of biological responses such as shell state, development and growth rate shows response variation depending on mineralogical composition. Species-specific responses due to mineralogical composition suggest taxa with calcitic, aragonitic and HMC skeletons may be more vulnerable to the expected carbonate chemistry alterations, and low magnesium calcite (LMC) species may be mostly resilient. Environmental and biological control on the calcification process and/or Mg content in calcite, biological traits and physiological processes are also expected to influence species specific responses.

Continue reading ‘Predicting potential impacts of ocean acidification on marine calcifiers from the Southern Ocean’

Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae


  • Most species from high-light environments are not able to calcifying under OA at night
  • Low-light species may be more susceptible to OA compared to high-light
  • Some species exhibit light-triggered calcification independent of photosystem II
  • Photosystem II independent calcification not sustained under OA


Calcifying tropical macroalgae produce sediment, build three-dimensional habitats, and provide substrate for invertebrate larvae on reefs. Thus, lower calcification rates under declining pH and increasing ocean pCO2, or ocean acidification, is a concern. In the present study, calcification rates were examined experimentally under predicted end-of-the-century seawater pCO2 (1116 μatm) and pH (7.67) compared to ambient controls (pCO2 409 μatm; pH 8.04). Nine reef macroalgae with diverse calcification locations, calcium carbonate structure, photophysiology, and site-specific irradiance were examined under light and dark conditions. Species included five from a high light patch reef on the Florida Keys Reef Tract (FKRT) and four species from low light reef walls on Little Cayman Island (LCI). Experiments on FKRT and LCI species were conducted at 500 and 50 μmol photons m−2 s−1 in situ irradiance, respectively. Calcification rates independent of photosystem-II (PSII) were also investigated for FKRT species. The most consistent negative effect of elevated pCO2 on calcification rates in the tropical macroalgae examined occurred in the dark. Most species (89%) had net calcification rates of zero or net dissolution in the dark at low pH. Species from the FKRT that sustained positive net calcification rates in the light at low pH also maintained ~30% of their net calcification rates without PSII at ambient pH. However, calcification rates in the light independent of PSII were not sustained at low pH. Regardless of these low pH effects, most FKRT species daily net calcification rates, integrating light/dark rates over a 24h period, were not significantly different between low and ambient pH. This was due to a 10-fold lower dark, compared to light, calcification rate, and a strong correspondence between calcification and photosynthetic rates. Interestingly, low-light species sustained calcification rates on par with high-light species without high rates of photosynthesis. Low-light species’ morphology and physiology that promote high calcification rates at ambient pH, may increase their vulnerability to low pH. Our data indicate that the negative effect of elevated pCO2 and low pH on tropical macroalgae at the organismal level is their impact on dark net calcification, probably enhanced dissolution. However, elevated pCO2 and low pH effects on macroalgae daily calcification rates are greatest in species with lower net calcification rates in the light. Thus, macroalgae able to maintain high calcification rates in the light (high and low irradiance) at low pH, and/or sustain strong biotic control with high [H+] in the bulk seawater, are expected to dominate under global change.

Continue reading ‘Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae’

Diffusive boundary layers and ocean acidification: implications for sea urchin settlement and growth

Chemical changes in the diffusive boundary layer (DBL) generated by photosynthesising macroalgae are expected to play an important role in modulating the effects of ocean acidification (OA), but little is known about the effects on early life stages of marine invertebrates in modified DBLs. Larvae that settle to macroalgal surfaces and remain within the DBL will experience pH conditions markedly different from the bulk seawater. We investigated the interactive effects of seawater pH and DBL thickness on settlement and early post-settlement growth of the sea urchin Pseudechinus huttoni, testing whether coralline-algal DBLs act as an environmental buffer to OA. DBL thickness and pH levels (estimated from well-established relationships with oxygen concentration) above the crustose coralline algal surfaces varied with light availability (with photosynthesis increasing pH to as high as pH 9.0 and respiration reducing pH to as low as pH 7.4 under light and dark conditions, respectively), independent of bulk seawater pH (7.5, 7.7, and 8.1). Settlement success of P. huttoni increased over time for all treatments, irrespective of estimated pH in the DBL. Juvenile test growth was similar in all DBL manipulations, showing resilience to variable and low seawater pH. Spine development, however, displayed greater variance with spine growth being negatively affected by reduced seawater pH in the DBL only in the dark treatments. Scanning electron microscopy revealed no observable differences in structural integrity or morphology of the sea urchin spines among pH treatments. Our results suggest that early juvenile stages of P. huttoni are well adapted to variable pH regimes in the DBL of macroalgae across a range of bulk seawater pH treatments.

Continue reading ‘Diffusive boundary layers and ocean acidification: implications for sea urchin settlement and growth’

Elevated CO2 affects kelp nutrient quality: a case study of Saccharina japonica from CO2 enriched coastal mesocosm systems

Kelps provide critical services for coastal food chains and ecosystem, and they are important food source for some segments of human population. Despite their ecological importance, little is known about long‐term impacts of elevated CO2 (eCO2) on nutrient metabolites in kelps and the underlying regulation mechanisms. In this study, the kelp Saccharina japonica was cultured in CO2 enriched coastal mesocosm systems for up to 3 months. We found that though eCO2 significantly increased the growth rate, carbon concentrations and C/N ratio of S. japonica, it had no effect on total nitrogen and protein contents at the end of cultivation period. Meanwhile it decreased the lipid, magnesium, sodium, calcium contents and changed the amino acid and fatty acid composition. Combining the genome‐wide transcriptomic and metabolic evidence, we obtained a systems‐level understanding of metabolic response of S. japonica to eCO2. The unique ornithine‐urea cycle (OUC) and aspartate‐argininosuccinate shunt (AAS), coupled with TCA cycle balanced the carbon and nitrogen metabolism under eCO2 by providing carbon skeleton for amino acid synthesis and reduced power for nitrogen assimilation. This research provides a major advance in the understanding of kelp nutrient metabolic mechanism in the context of global climate change, and such CO2‐induced shifts in nutritional value may induce changes in the structure and stability of marine trophic webs and affect the quality of human nutrition resources.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 affects kelp nutrient quality: a case study of Saccharina japonica from CO2 enriched coastal mesocosm systems’

Photophysiological responses of the marine macroalga Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis to ocean acidification and warming


  • Warming counteracted the negative effects of OA on growth and pigmentations.
  • OA synergy with warming showed down regulated CCMs.
  • OA synergy with warming decrease tissue C but increase tissue N per biomass.


To study the combined effects of ocean acidification (OA) and warming on the growth and photosynthetic performance of the economically important marine macroalga Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis, thalli were grown under ambient low CO2 (390 μatm, LC) and elevated high CO2 (1000 μatm, HC) conditions with culture temperatures of 20 °C and 24 °C. Based on the evaluation of growth and photosynthetic responses to light and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), HC decreased the growth rate and phycoerythrin (PE) and phycocyanin (PC) levels but increased contents of UV-absorbing compounds (UVACs) in G. lemaneiformis at 20 °C, and high temperature counteracted these effects. Photosynthetic responses such as chlorophyll fluorescence parameters (maximum relative electron transport rate, rETRmax; light use efficiency, α; saturation light intensity, Ik; maximum quantum yield, FV/FM; effective quantum yield, Y(II) and non-photochemical quenching, NPQ) were not different among the treatments. However, increased oxygen evolution (Pn) and dark respiration (Rd) rates were observed at 20 °C in the HC treatment. No significant effects of HC on apparent carboxylation efficiency (ACE), maximum oxygen evolution rate (Vmax) and DIC affinity for oxygen evolution (K1/2DIC) were found, and HC synergy with high temperature increased K1/2DIC. A lower C/N ratio with decreased tissue carbon but increased nitrogen was observed under HC and high-temperature treatment. Our results indicate that high temperature may counteract the negative effects of OA on the growth and pigment characteristics of G. lemaneiformis and improve food quality, as evidenced by enhanced N per biomass.

Continue reading ‘Photophysiological responses of the marine macroalga Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis to ocean acidification and warming’

Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification


  • Study investigates a common coral-macroalgal interaction under a low end emission scenario.
  • Light calcification is negatively influenced by an interaction of macroalgal contact and scenario.
  • Protein content, zooxanthellae density and Chlorophyll a were enhanced under scenario conditions.
  • Negative impacts of macroalgae on corals were observed, but not enhanced by scenario conditions.
  • More research on the impacts of climate change on the dynamics of coral-algal interactions is needed.


Competition between corals and macroalgae is frequently observed on reefs with the outcome of these interactions affecting the relative abundance of reef organisms and therefore reef health. Anthropogenic activities have resulted in increased atmospheric CO2 levels and a subsequent rise in ocean temperatures. In addition to increasing water temperature, elevated CO2 levels are leading to a decrease in oceanic pH (ocean acidification). These two changes have the potential to alter ecological processes within the oceans, including the outcome of competitive coral-macroalgal interactions. In our study, we explored the combined effect of temperature increase and ocean acidification on the competition between the coral Porites lobata and on the Great Barrier Reef abundant macroalga Chlorodesmis fastigiata. A temperature increase of +1 °C above present temperatures and CO2 increase of +85 ppm were used to simulate a low end emission scenario for the mid- to late 21st century, according to the Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6 (RCP2.6). Our results revealed that the net photosynthesis of P. lobata decreased when it was in contact with C. fastigiata under ambient conditions, and that dark respiration increased under RCP2.6 conditions. The Photosynthesis to Respiration (P:R) ratios of corals as they interacted with macroalgal competitors were not significantly different between scenarios. Dark calcification rates of corals under RCP2.6 conditions, however, were negative and significantly decreased compared to ambient conditions. Light calcification rates were negatively affected by the interaction of macroalgal contact in the RCP2.6 scenario, compared to algal mimics and to coral under ambient conditions. Chlorophyll a, and protein content increased in the RCP2.6 scenario, but were not influenced by contact with the macroalga. We conclude that the coral host was negatively affected by RCP2.6 conditions, whereas the productivity of its symbionts (zooxanthellae) was enhanced. While a negative effect of the macroalga (C. fastigiata) on the coral (P. lobata) was observed for the P:R ratio under control conditions, it was not enhanced under RCP2.6 conditions.

Continue reading ‘Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification’

Microcalcareous seaweeds as sentinels of trophic changes and CO2 trapping in transitional water systems


  • The presence of microcalcareous macroalgae was studied in the Italian lagoons.
  • Macroalgal growth was mainly affected by changes in the pH of the water column.
  • Small algae are a Litmus Test Paper Strip for environmental quality assessment.
  • Carbonated are accumulated in surface sediments by small calcareous macroalgae.
  • The CO2 abatement occurred in environments of good-high ecological conditions.


Microcalcareous epiphytic seaweeds (MES) are macroalgae more sensitive than aquatic angiosperms to environmental degradation and, with their presence/absence, these species act like sentinels providing useful information on the ecological status of environments. In this study, we analyzed the environmental parameters in water column and surface sediments in relation to macrophyte variables from 257 sites, distributed in the main Italian transitional water systems (TWS). The results showed that MES are strongly correlated to pH changes, the main parameter that regulates their presence/absence. The optimal growth range is between pH 7.80 and 8.35; out of these values their growth is reduced or hampered. In oxidized sediments the carbonate crusts, composed by Mg-Calcite (an unstable compound that in the sediments quickly turns into calcite), can permanently trap up to 2.47 tonnes ha−1 yr−1 of CO2, increasing sediment thickness of approx. 0.06–0.21 mm yr−1.

Continue reading ‘Microcalcareous seaweeds as sentinels of trophic changes and CO2 trapping in transitional water systems’

Elevated CO2 concentration alleviates UVR-induced inhibition of photosynthetic light reactions and growth in an intertidal red macroalga


  • Both photosynthetic and growth rates of Pyropia yezoensis are inhibited by UVR.
  • Ultraviolet radiation showed significant inhibition on PSII but not for PSI.
  • There is an interaction between CO2 concentration and irradiance quality.
  • High CO2 concentration could alleviate the negative effects of UVR.


The commercially important red macroalga Pyropia (formerly Porphyra) yezoensis is, in its natural intertidal environment, subjected to high levels of both photosynthetically active and ultraviolet radiation (PAR and UVR, respectively). In the present work, we investigated the effects of a plausibly increased global CO2 concentration on quantum yields of photosystems II (PSII) and I (PSI), as well as photosynthetic and growth rates of P. yezoensis grown under natural solar irradiance regimes with or without the presence of UV-A and/or UV-B. Our results showed that the high-CO2 treatment (~1000 μbar, which also caused a drop of 0.3 pH units in the seawater) significantly increased both CO2 assimilation rates (by 35%) and growth (by 18%), as compared with ambient air of ~400 μbar CO2. The inhibition of growth by UV-A (by 26%) was reduced to 15% by high-CO2 concentration, while the inhibition by UV-B remained at ~6% under both CO2 concentrations. Homologous results were also found for the maximal relative photosynthetic electron transport rates (rETRmax), the maximum quantum yield of PSII (Fv/Fm), as well as the midday decrease in effective quantum yield of PSII (YII) and concomitant increased non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). A two-way ANOVA analysis showed an interaction between CO2 concentration and irradiance quality, reflecting that UVR-induced inhibition of both growth and YII were alleviated under the high-CO2 treatment. Contrary to PSII, the effective quantum yield of PSI (YI) showed higher values under high-CO2 condition, and was not significantly affected by the presence of UVR, indicating that it was well protected from this radiation. Both the elevated CO2 concentration and presence of UVR significantly induced UV-absorbing compounds. These results suggest that future increasing CO2 conditions will be beneficial for photosynthesis and growth of P. yezoensis even if UVR should remain at high levels.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 concentration alleviates UVR-induced inhibition of photosynthetic light reactions and growth in an intertidal red macroalga’

Drivers of biogeochemical variability in a central California kelp forest: implications for local amelioration of ocean acidification

Kelp forests are among the world’s most productive marine ecosystems, and they have the potential to locally ameliorate ocean acidification (OA). In order to understand the contribution of kelp metabolism to local biogeochemistry, we must first quantify the natural variability and the relative contributions of physical and biological drivers to biogeochemical changes in space and time. We deployed an extensive instrument array in Monterey Bay, CA, inside and outside of a kelp forest to assess the degree to which giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) locally ameliorates present‐day acidic conditions which we expect to be exacerbated by OA. Temperature, pH, and O2 variability occurred at semidiurnal, diurnal (tidal and diel), and longer upwelling event periods. Mean conditions were driven by offshore wind forcing and the delivery of upwelled water via nearshore internal bores. While near surface pH and O2 were similar inside and outside the kelp forest, surface pH was elevated inside the kelp compared to outside, suggesting that the kelp canopy locally increased surface pH. We observed the greatest acidification stress deeper in the water column where pCO2 reached levels as high as 1300 μatm and aragonite undersaturation (ΩAr <1) occurred on several occasions. At this site, kelp canopy modification of seawater properties, and thus any ameliorating effect against acidification is greatest in a narrow band of surface water. The spatial disconnect between stress exposure at depth and reduction of acidification stress at the surface warrants further assessment of utilizing kelp forests as provisioners of local OA mitigation.

Continue reading ‘Drivers of biogeochemical variability in a central California kelp forest: implications for local amelioration of ocean acidification’

Short-term effects of increased CO2, nitrate and temperature on photosynthetic activity in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated fluorometers and oxygen evolution

Short-term effects of pCO2 (700 – 380 ppm; HC-LC) and nitrate content (50-5 βM; HN-LC) on photosynthesis, estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated (PAMs) fluorometers and by oxygen evolution, were investigated in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) under solar radiation (ex-situ) and in the laboratory under artificial light (in-situ). After 6-days of incubation at ambient temperature (AT), algae were subjected to a 4 oC-temperature increase (AT+4oC) for 3 d. Both in-situ and ex-situ, maximal electron transport rate (ETRmax) and in situ gross photosynthesis (GP) measured by O2 evolution presented the highest values under HCHN, and the lowest under HCLN, across all measuring systems. Maximal quantum yield (Fv/Fm), and ETRmax of PSII (ETR(II)max) and of PSI (ETR(I)max), decreased under HCLN under AT+4°C. Ex situ ETR was higher than in situ ETR. At noon, Fv/Fm decreased (indicating photoinhibition), whereas ETR(II)max and maximal non-photochemical quenching (NPQmax) increased. ETR(II)max decreased under AT+4oC in contrast to Fv/Fm, photosynthetic efficiency (αETR) and saturated irradiance (EK). Thus, U. rigida exhibited a decrease in photosynthetic production under acidification, LN levels and AT+4oC. These results emphasize the importance of studying the interactive effects between environmental parameters using in-situ vs. ex-situ conditions when aiming to evaluate the impact of global change on marine macroalgae.

Continue reading ‘Short-term effects of increased CO2, nitrate and temperature on photosynthetic activity in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated fluorometers and oxygen evolution’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book