Posts Tagged 'annelids'

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)’

The evolution of phenotypic plasticity under global change

Marine ecosystems are currently in a state of flux, with ocean warming and acidification occurring at unprecedented rates. Phenotypic plasticity underpins acclimatory responses by shifting the mean phenotype in a population, which may buffer the negative effects of global change. However, little is known about how phenotypic plasticity evolves across multiple generations. We tested this by reciprocally-transplanting the polychaete Ophryotrocha labronica between control and global change scenarios (ocean warming and acidification in isolation and combined) over five generations. By comparing the reaction norms of four life-history traits across generations, we show that juvenile developmental rate in the combined scenario was the only trait that changed its plastic response across generations when transplanted back to control conditions, and that adaptive plasticity was conserved in most traits, despite significant levels of selection and strong declines in individual fitness in the multi-generational exposure. We suggest the change in level of plasticity in the combined scenario is caused by differential allocation of energy between the mean and the plasticity of the trait along the multigenerational exposure. The ability to maintain within-generational levels of plasticity under global change scenarios has important eco-evolutionary and conservation implications, which are examined under the framework of assisted evolution programs.

Continue reading ‘The evolution of phenotypic plasticity under global change’

Extreme ocean acidification reduces the susceptibility of eastern oyster shells to a polydorid parasite

Ocean acidification poses a threat to marine organisms. While the physiological and behavioural effects of ocean acidification have received much attention, the effects of acidification on the susceptibility of farmed shellfish to parasitic infections are poorly understood. Here we describe the effects of moderate (pH 7.5) and extreme (pH 7.0) ocean acidification on the susceptibility of Crassostrea virginica shells to infection by a parasitic polydorid, Polydora websteri. Under laboratory conditions, shells were exposed to three pH treatments (7.0, 7.5 and 8.0) for 3- and 5-week periods. Treated shells were subsequently transferred to an oyster aquaculture site (which had recently reported an outbreak of P. websteri) for 50 days to test for effects of pH and exposure time on P. websteri recruitment to oyster shells. Results indicated that pH and exposure time did not affect the length, width or weight of the shells. Interestingly, P. websteri counts were significantly lower under extreme (pH 7.0; ~50% reduction), but not moderate (pH 7.5; ~20% reduction) acidification levels; exposure time had no effect. This study suggests that extreme levels – but not current and projected near-future levels – of acidification (∆pH ~1 unit) can reduce the susceptibility of eastern oyster shells to P. websteri infections.

Continue reading ‘Extreme ocean acidification reduces the susceptibility of eastern oyster shells to a polydorid parasite’

Target gene expression studies on Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis cfr massiliensis at the shallow CO2 vents off Ischia, Italy

Many studies predict negative effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms, potentially leading to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function. Research on species inhabiting naturally high pCO2 environments, such as volcanic CO2 vents, offers an opportunity to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in high pCO2 regulation. Here we investigate the relative expression of NADH dehydrogenase, sodium-hydrogen antiporter (NHE), carbonic anhydrase (CA) and paramyosin genes from two non-calcifying sibling Nereididae polychaetes species, Platynereis cfr massiliensis, collected in the shallow CO2 vents off Ischia (Italy; 40°43′52.0″N 13°57′46.2″E and 40°43′55.5″N 13°57′48.4″E), and P. dumerilii collected in an area nearby (40°43′34.51″N; 13°57′35.7″E). The origin of the worms was confirmed using restriction enzyme digest. NHE and paramyosin expressions were both significantly increased in P. dumerilii relative to the P. cfr massiliensis vent populations. Furthermore, a seven day laboratory transfer experiment to lower/higher pCO2 conditions was conducted to investigate the effects on the short term gene expression. The transfer experiment of the non-vent worms to high pCO2 conditions showed no significant effect on any of the genes analysed, however, two genes (NADH dehydrogenase and NHE) from worms of the vent population were significantly down-regulated under low pCO2. These findings will help to gain further insights into the cellular mechanisms affected by pCO2 changes in two polychaete species.

Continue reading ‘Target gene expression studies on Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis cfr massiliensis at the shallow CO2 vents off Ischia, Italy’

Effects of in situ CO2 enrichment on epibiont settlement on artificial substrata within a Posidonia oceanica meadow


  • Ocean acidification (OA) may cause community shifts by effecting early life stages.
  • pH was lowered in situ and maintained as an offset within a FOCE setup.
  • Settlement/colonization of molluscs and peracarid crustaceans were robust to OA.
  • Crustose coralline algae and calcifying polychaetes were vulnerable at early life.


Alterations to colonization or early post-settlement stages may cause the reorganization of communities under future ocean acidification conditions. Yet, this hypothesis has been little tested by in situ pH manipulation. A Free Ocean Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FOCE) system was used to lower pH by a ~ 0.3 unit offset within a partially enclosed portion (1.7 m3) of a Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow (11 m depth) between 21 June and 3 November 2014. Epibiont colonization and early post settlement stages were assessed within the FOCE setup, as part of the larger community-level study, to better understand the outcome for a multispecies assemblage and the ecological processes that result in reported community shifts under altered carbonate chemistry. Two types of artificial collectors (tiles and scourers) were placed within three treatments: a pH-manipulated enclosure, an un-manipulated control enclosure, and an open plot in the ambient meadow. Tiles and scourers were collected after one to four months. Additionally, to see whether the outcome differed for communities in a later successional stage, previously settled scourer-collectors were also placed in the same three treatments. Enclosures acted to reduce settlement and migrant colonization. Scourers deployed for one to four months within the open-plot contained a community assemblage that could be distinguished from the assemblages within the enclosures. However, a comparison of enclosure assemblages on tiles showed evidence of a pH effect. There was lowered coverage of crustose coralline algae and fewer calcareous tube-forming polychaetes (Spirorbis sp. and Spirobranchus sp.) on tiles placed in the pH-manipulated enclosure compared to the un-manipulated enclosure. For assemblages in scourer collectors, shared and common taxa, in all treatments, were invertebrate polychaetes Psamathe fusca, Sphaerosyllis sp., Chrysopetalum sp., arthropods Harpacticoida, and Amphipoda, and the juvenile bivalve Lyonsia sp. Similar organism composition and abundance, as well as taxonomic richness and evenness, were found in scourers from both enclosures. Pre-settled scourers contained greater numbers of individuals and more calcified members, but the assemblage, as well as the growth rate of a juvenile bivalve Lyonsia sp., appeared unaffected by a two-month exposure to lowered pH and calcium carbonate saturation state. Results from this case study support the hypothesis that early stages of specific calcifiers (crustose coralline algae and calcareous tube-forming polychaetes) are sensitive to near future ocean acidification conditions yet suggest that negative effects on sessile micro-invertebrate assemblages will be minimal.

Continue reading ‘Effects of in situ CO2 enrichment on epibiont settlement on artificial substrata within a Posidonia oceanica meadow’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book