Posts Tagged 'annelids'

The weakest link: sensitivity to climate extremes across life stages of marine invertebrates

Predicting the effects of climate change on Earth’s biota becomes even more challenging when acknowledging that most species have life cycles consisting of multiple stages, each of which may respond differently to extreme environmental conditions. There is currently no clear consensus regarding which stages are most susceptible to increasing environmental stress, or ‘climate extremes’. We used a meta‐analytic approach to quantify variation in responses to environmental stress across multiple life stages of marine invertebrates. We identified 287 experiments in 29 papers which examined the lethal thresholds of multiple life stages (embryo, larva, juvenile, and adult) of both holoplanktonic and meroplanktonic marine invertebrates subjected to the same experimental conditions of warming, acidification, and hypoxia stress. Most studies considered short acute exposure to stressors. We calculated effect sizes (log response ratio) for each life stage (unpaired analysis) and the difference in effect sizes between stages of each species (paired analysis) included in each experiment. In the unpaired analysis, all significant responses were negative, indicating that warming, acidification and hypoxia tended to increase mortality. Furthermore, embryos, larvae, and juveniles were more negatively affected by warming than adults. The paired analysis revealed that, when subjected to the same experimental conditions, younger life stages were more negatively affected by warming than older life stages, specifically among pairings of adults vs. juveniles and larvae vs. embryos. Although responses to warming are well documented, few studies of the effects of acidification and hypoxia met the criteria for inclusion in our analyses. Our results suggest that while most life stages will be negatively affected by climate change, younger stages of marine invertebrates are more sensitive to extreme heating events.

Continue reading ‘The weakest link: sensitivity to climate extremes across life stages of marine invertebrates’

Rapid bioerosion in a tropical upwelling coral reef

Coral reefs persist in an accretion-erosion balance, which is critical for understanding the natural variability of sediment production, reef accretion, and their effects on the carbonate budget. Bioerosion (i.e. biodegradation of substrate) and encrustation (i.e. calcified overgrowth on substrate) influence the carbonate budget and the ecological functions of coral reefs, by substrate formation/consolidation/erosion, food availability and nutrient cycling. This study investigates settlement succession and carbonate budget change by bioeroding and encrusting calcifying organisms on experimentally deployed coral substrates (skeletal fragments of Stylophora pistillata branches). The substrates were deployed in a marginal coral reef located in the Gulf of Papagayo (Costa Rica, Eastern Tropical Pacific) for four months during the northern winter upwelling period (December 2013 to March 2014), and consecutively sampled after each month. Due to the upwelling environmental conditions within the Eastern Tropical Pacific, this region serves as a natural laboratory to study ecological processes such as bioerosion, which may reflect climate change scenarios. Time-series analyses showed a rapid settlement of bioeroders, particularly of lithophagine bivalves of the genus Lithophaga/Leiosolenus (Dillwyn, 1817), within the first two months of exposure. The observed enhanced calcium carbonate loss of coral substrate (>30%) may influence seawater carbon chemistry. This is evident by measurements of an elevated seawater pH (>8.2) and aragonite saturation state (Ωarag >3) at Matapalo Reef during the upwelling period, when compared to a previous upwelling event observed at a nearby site in distance to a coral reef (Marina Papagayo). Due to the resulting local carbonate buffer effect of the seawater, an influx of atmospheric CO2 into reef waters was observed. Substrates showed no secondary cements in thin-section analyses, despite constant seawater carbonate oversaturation (Ωarag >2.8) during the field experiment. Micro Computerized Tomography (μCT) scans and microcast-embeddings of the substrates revealed that the carbonate loss was primarily due to internal macrobioerosion and an increase in microbioerosion. This study emphasizes the interconnected effects of upwelling and carbonate bioerosion on the reef carbonate budget and the ecological turnovers of carbonate producers in tropical coral reefs under environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Rapid bioerosion in a tropical upwelling coral reef’

Ocean acidification drives community shifts towards simplified non-calcified habitats in a subtropical−temperate transition zone

Rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are causing surface seawater pH and carbonate ion concentrations to fall in a process known as ocean acidification. To assess the likely ecological effects of ocean acidification we compared intertidal and subtidal marine communities at increasing levels of pCO2 at recently discovered volcanic seeps off the Pacific coast of Japan (34° N). This study region is of particular interest for ocean acidification research as it has naturally low levels of surface seawater pCO2 (280–320 µatm) and is located at a transition zone between temperate and sub-tropical communities. We provide the first assessment of ocean acidification effects at a biogeographic boundary. Marine communities exposed to mean levels of pCO2 predicted by 2050 experienced periods of low aragonite saturation and high dissolved inorganic carbon. These two factors combined to cause marked community shifts and a major decline in biodiversity, including the loss of key habitat-forming species, with even more extreme community changes expected by 2100. Our results provide empirical evidence that near-future levels of pCO2 shift sub-tropical ecosystems from carbonate to fleshy algal dominated systems, accompanied by biodiversity loss and major simplification of the ecosystem.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification drives community shifts towards simplified non-calcified habitats in a subtropical−temperate transition zone’

Ocean acidification alters early successional coral reef communities and their rates of community metabolism

Ocean acidification is expected to alter community composition on coral reefs, but its effects on reef community metabolism are poorly understood. Here we document how early successional benthic coral reef communities change in situ along gradients of carbon dioxide (CO2), and the consequences of these changes on rates of community photosynthesis, respiration, and light and dark calcification. Ninety standardised benthic communities were grown on PVC tiles deployed at two shallow-water volcanic CO2 seeps and two adjacent control sites in Papua New Guinea. Along the CO2 gradient, both the upward facing phototrophic and the downward facing cryptic communities changed in their composition. Under ambient CO2, both communities were dominated by calcifying algae, but with increasing CO2 they were gradually replaced by non-calcifying algae (predominantly green filamentous algae, cyanobacteria and macroalgae, which increased from ~30% to ~80% cover). Responses were weaker in the invertebrate communities, however ascidians and tube-forming polychaetes declined with increasing CO2. Differences in the carbonate chemistry explained a far greater amount of change in communities than differences between the two reefs and successional changes from five to 13 months, suggesting community successions are established early and are under strong chemical control. As pH declined from 8.0 to 7.8, rates of gross photosynthesis and dark respiration of the 13-month old reef communities (upper and cryptic surfaces combined) significantly increased by 10% and 20%, respectively, in response to altered community composition. As a consequence, net production remained constant. Light and dark calcification rates both gradually declined by 20%, and low or negative daily net calcification rates were observed at an aragonite saturation state of <2.3. The study demonstrates that ocean acidification as predicted for the end of this century will strongly alter reef communities, and will significantly change rates of community metabolism.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters early successional coral reef communities and their rates of community metabolism’

Impact of ocean acidification on the biogeochemistry and meiofaunal assemblage of carbonate-rich sediments: results from core incubations (Bay of Villefranche, NW Mediterranean Sea)


• A sediment incubation experiment to assess the effect of ocean acidification
• Porewater concentration gradients and sediment-water fluxes (DIC, TA, pH, Ca2+, O2)
• Ocean acidification impacts early diagenesis in carbonate-rich sediments.
• CaCO3 dissolution and the TA release may increase the buffering capacity of bottom water.


Marine sediments are an important carbonate reservoir whose partial dissolution could buffer seawater pH decreases in the water column as a consequence of anthropogenic CO2 uptake by the ocean. This study investigates the impact of ocean acidification on the carbonate chemistry at the sediment-water interface (SWI) of shallow-water carbonate sediments. Twelve sediment cores were sampled at one station in the Bay of Villefranche (NW Mediterranean Sea). Four sediment cores were immediately analyzed in order to determine the initial distribution (T0) of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), total alkalinity (TA), pH and dissolved oxygen (O2) in the porewaters and to quantify sediment-water fluxes. Four other cores were kept submerged in the laboratory for 25 days with ambient seawater (pHT = 8.12) and the remaining four cores were incubated with acidified seawater (average pH offset of −0.68). This acidification experiment was carried out in an open-flow system, in the dark and at in-situ temperature (15 °C). Every three days, sediment-water fluxes (DIC, TA, pH, O2 and nutrients) were determined using a whole core 12-h incubation technique. Additionally, vertical O2 and pH microprofiles were regularly recorded in the first 2 cm of the sediment during the entire experiment. At the end of the experiment, TA, DIC and Ca2+ concentrations were analyzed in the porewaters and the abundance and taxonomic composition of meiofaunal organisms were assessed. The saturation states of the porewaters with respect to calcite and aragonite were over-saturated but under-saturated with respect to 12 mol% Mg-calcite, in both acidified and non-acidified treatments. The sediment-water fluxes of TA and DIC increased in the acidified treatment, likely as a consequence of enhanced carbonate dissolution. In contrast, the acidification of the overlying water did not significantly affect the O2 and nutrients fluxes at the SWI. Meiofaunal abundance decreased in both treatments over the duration of the experiment, but the organisms seemed unaffected by the acidification. Our results demonstrate that carbonate dissolution increased under acidified conditions but other parameters, such as microbial redox processes, were apparently not affected by the pH decrease, at least during the duration of our experiment. The dissolution of sedimentary carbonates and the associated release of TA may potentially buffer bottom water, depending on the intensity of the TA flux, the TA/DIC ratio, vertical mixing and, therefore, the residence time of bottom water. Under certain conditions, this process may mitigate the effect of ocean acidification on benthic ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification on the biogeochemistry and meiofaunal assemblage of carbonate-rich sediments: results from core incubations (Bay of Villefranche, NW Mediterranean Sea)’

Tough, armed and omnivorous: Hermodice carunculata (Annelida: Amphinomidae) is prepared for ecological challenges

The bearded fireworm, Hermodice carunculata, is a common species in the marine annelid taxon Amphinomidae. It has a widespread distribution throughout the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Red Seas. We review its environmental tolerances, defence mechanisms and feeding habits to evaluate its potential to survive in changing ocean conditions, to increasingly emerge as a nuisance species and to invade new geographic areas. Hermodice carunculata tolerates a wide range of environmental conditions, including temperature, salinity, oxygen saturation and various types of pollution. It has few natural predators because it is protected by its sharp chaetae and probably by toxins. Hermodice carunculata is best known for consuming live cnidarians, and has been implicated in transmitting coral pathogens, but it also feeds non-selectively on detritus. In the short term, we predict that H. carunculata will be able to withstand many future ecological challenges and possibly contribute to coral reef decline. In the long term, ocean acidification may negatively impact its defence mechanisms and survival. Its invasive potential may be significant. We highlight the gaps in our knowledge about the reproduction and development of this species, the nature and origin of its toxins and role of microbes in their feeding behaviour and defensive strategies.

Continue reading ‘Tough, armed and omnivorous: Hermodice carunculata (Annelida: Amphinomidae) is prepared for ecological challenges’

Effect of temperature rise and ocean acidification on growth of calcifying tubeworm shells (Spirorbis spirorbis): an in situ benthocosm approach (update)

The calcareous tubeworm Spirorbis spirorbis is a widespread serpulid species in the Baltic Sea, where it commonly grows as an epibiont on brown macroalgae (genus Fucus). It lives within a Mg-calcite shell and could be affected by ocean acidification and temperature rise induced by the predicted future atmospheric CO2 increase. However, Spirorbis tubes grow in a chemically modified boundary layer around the algae, which may mitigate acidification. In order to investigate how increasing temperature and rising pCO2 may influence S. spirorbisshell growth we carried out four seasonal experiments in the Kiel Outdoor Benthocosms at elevated pCO2 and temperature conditions. Compared to laboratory batch culture experiments the benthocosm approach provides a better representation of natural conditions for physical and biological ecosystem parameters, including seasonal variations. We find that growth rates of S. spirorbis are significantly controlled by ontogenetic and seasonal effects. The length of the newly grown tube is inversely related to the initial diameter of the shell. Our study showed no significant difference of the growth rates between ambient atmospheric and elevated (1100 ppm) pCO2 conditions. No influence of daily average CaCO3 saturation state on the growth rates of S. spirorbis was observed. We found, however, net growth of the shells even in temporarily undersaturated bulk solutions, under conditions that concurrently favoured selective shell surface dissolution. The results suggest an overall resistance of S. spirorbis growth to acidification levels predicted for the year 2100 in the Baltic Sea. In contrast, S. spirorbis did not survive at mean seasonal temperatures exceeding 24 °C during the summer experiments. In the autumn experiments at ambient pCO2, the growth rates of juvenile S. spirorbis were higher under elevated temperature conditions. The results reveal that S. spirorbis may prefer moderately warmer conditions during their early life stages but will suffer from an excessive temperature increase and from increasing shell corrosion as a consequence of progressing ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Effect of temperature rise and ocean acidification on growth of calcifying tubeworm shells (Spirorbis spirorbis): an in situ benthocosm approach (update)’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book