Posts Tagged 'Antarctic Ocean'

Effects of ocean acidification on calcification of the sub-Antarctic pteropod Limacina retroversa

Ocean acidification is expected to impact the high latitude oceans first, as CO2 dissolves more easily in colder waters. At the current rate of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, the sub-Antarctic Zone will start to experience undersaturated conditions with respect to aragonite within the next few decades, which will affect marine calcifying organisms. Shelled pteropods, a group of calcifying zooplankton, are considered to be especially sensitive to changes in carbonate chemistry because of their thin aragonite shells. Limacina retroversa is the most abundant pteropod in sub-Antarctic waters, and plays an important role in the carbonate pump. However, not much is known about its response to ocean acidification. In this study, we investigated differences in calcification between L. retroversa individuals exposed to ocean carbonate chemistry conditions of the past (pH 8.19; mid-1880s), present (pH 8.06), and near-future (pH 7.93; predicted for 2050) in the sub-Antarctic. After 3 days of exposure, calcification responses were quantified by calcein staining, shell weighing, and Micro-CT scanning. In pteropods exposed to past conditions, calcification occurred over the entire shell and the leading edge of the last whorl, whilst individuals incubated under present and near-future conditions mostly invested in extending their shells, rather than calcifying over their entire shell. Moreover, individuals exposed to past conditions formed larger shell volumes compared to present and future conditions, suggesting that calcification is already decreased in today’s sub-Antarctic waters. Shells of individuals incubated under near-future conditions did not increase in shell weight during the incubation, and had a lower density compared to past and present conditions, suggesting that calcification will be further compromised in the future. This demonstrates the high sensitivity of L. retroversa to relatively small and short-term changes in carbonate chemistry. A reduction in calcification of L. retroversa in the rapidly acidifying waters of the sub-Antarctic will have a major impact on aragonite-CaCO3 export from oceanic surface waters to the deep sea.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on calcification of the sub-Antarctic pteropod Limacina retroversa’

A Polar outlook: potential interactions of micro- and nano-plastic with other anthropogenic stressors


  • MP/NP at the poles should be addressed with chemical and climate stressors.
  • MP/NP and anthropogenic stress interactions may vary seasonally and locally.
  • MP/NP research should focus on polar species enduring high anthropogenic stress.


Polar marine ecosystems may have higher sensitivity than other ecosystems to plastic pollution due to recurrent physical and biological features; presence of ice and high UV radiation, slow growth rates and weak genetic differentiation of resident biota, accumulation of persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals, and fast rates of warming and global ocean acidification. Here, we discuss potential sources of and exposure to micro- and nano-plastic in polar marine ecosystems and potential mixture effects of micro- and nano-plastic coupled with chemical and climate related stressors. We address the anthropogenic contaminants likely to be ‘high risk’ for interactions in Arctic and Antarctic waters for reasons such as accumulation under sea-ice, a known sink for plastic particulates. Consequently, we address the potential for localised plastic-chemical interactions and possible seasonal fluctuations in interactions associated with freeze-thaw events. The risks for keystone polar species are also considered, incorporating the behavioural and physiological traits of biota and addressing potential ‘hotspot’ areas. Finally, we discuss a possible direction for future research.

Continue reading ‘A Polar outlook: potential interactions of micro- and nano-plastic with other anthropogenic stressors’

Seasonal variability of net sea-air CO2 fluxes in a coastal region of the northern Antarctic Peninsula

We show an annual overview of the sea-air CO2 exchanges and primary drivers in the Gerlache Strait, a hotspot for climate change that is ecologically important in the northern Antarctic Peninsula. In autumn and winter, episodic upwelling events increase the remineralized carbon in the sea surface, leading the region to act as a moderate or strong CO2 source to the atmosphere of up to 40 mmol m–2 day–1. During summer and late spring, photosynthesis decreases the CO2 partial pressure in the surface seawater, enhancing ocean CO2 uptake, which reaches values higher than − 40 mmol m–2 day–1. Thus, autumn/winter CO2 outgassing is nearly balanced by an only 4-month period of intense ocean CO2 ingassing during summer/spring. Hence, the estimated annual net sea-air CO2 flux from 2002 to 2017 was 1.24 ± 4.33 mmol m–2 day–1, opposing the common CO2 sink behaviour observed in other coastal regions around Antarctica. The main drivers of changes in the surface CO2 system in this region were total dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity, revealing dominant influences of both physical and biological processes. These findings demonstrate the importance of Antarctica coastal zones as summer carbon sinks and emphasize the need to better understand local/regional seasonal sensitivity to the net CO2 flux effect on the Southern Ocean carbon cycle, especially considering the impacts caused by climate change.

Continue reading ‘Seasonal variability of net sea-air CO2 fluxes in a coastal region of the northern Antarctic Peninsula’

CO2-system observations from a mooring on the West Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf

These are CO2-system data from a mooring deployed on the continental shelf of the West Antarctic Peninsula (latitude: 66.5S, longitude: 69.9W), at station 300.100 of the Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (PAL-LTER) sampling grid ( Temperature, salinity, and pH were acquired by using an SBE SeapHOx sensor ~18m below the surface with 3-hourly resolution from January 2018 to January 2019. Sensor data were averaged to 24-hour resolution. The salinity sensor failed in May 2018, and mean value between the start of the deployment and the last observation is used to populate the remainder of the record. The pH data were combined with salinity and the relationship between alkalinity and salinity of Hauri et al., 2015 to compute the partial pressure of CO(pCO2). The data are in comma-separated (csv) format with units in the first row of the file.

Also available are discrete dissolved inorganic carbon (TCO2) and alkalinity samples from CTD profiles collected at the mooring station and analysed following standard procedures at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. A detailed description of sample collection and analytical methods is given in Shadwick et al., (under review). There is one comma separated file (csv) per cruise; variable names and units are in the first row.

Continue reading ‘CO2-system observations from a mooring on the West Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf’

Antarctic ecosystems in transition – life between stresses and opportunities

Important findings from the second decade of the 21st century on the impact of environmental change on biological processes in the Antarctic were synthesized by 26 international experts. Ten key messages emerged that have stakeholder-relevance and/or a high impact for the scientific community. They address (i) altered biogeochemical cycles, (ii) ocean acidification, (iii) climate change hotspots, (iv) unexpected dynamism in seabed-dwelling populations, (v) spatial range shifts, (vi) adaptation and thermal resilience, (vii) sea ice related biological fluctuations, (viii) pollution, (ix) endangered terrestrial endemism and (x) the discovery of unknown habitats. Most Antarctic biotas are exposed to multiple stresses and considered vulnerable to environmental change due to narrow tolerance ranges, rapid change, projected circumpolar impacts, low potential for timely genetic adaptation, and migration barriers. Important ecosystem functions, such as primary production and energy transfer between trophic levels, have already changed, and biodiversity patterns have shifted. A confidence assessment of the degree of ‘scientific understanding’ revealed an intermediate level for most of the more detailed sub-messages, indicating that process-oriented research has been successful in the past decade. Additional efforts are necessary, however, to achieve the level of robustness in scientific knowledge that is required to inform protection measures of the unique Antarctic terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and their contributions to global biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Continue reading ‘Antarctic ecosystems in transition – life between stresses and opportunities’

Ocean acidification state in western Antarctic surface waters: controls and interannual variability (update)

During four austral summers (December to January) from 2006 to 2010, we investigated the surface-water carbonate system and its controls in the western Antarctic Ocean. Measurements of total alkalinity (AT), pH and total inorganic carbon (CT) were investigated in combination with high-frequency measurements on sea-surface temperature (SST), salinity and Chl a. In all parameters we found large interannual variability due to differences in sea-ice concentration, physical processes and primary production. The main result from our observations suggests that primary production was the major control on the calcium carbonate saturation state (Ω) in austral summer for all years. This was mainly reflected in the covariance of pH and Chl a. In the sea-ice-covered parts of the study area, pH and Ω were generally low, coinciding with low Chl a concentrations. The lowest pH in situ and lowest aragonite saturation (ΩAr ~ 1.0) were observed in December 2007 in the coastal Amundsen and Ross seas near marine outflowing glaciers. These low Ω and high pH values were likely influenced by freshwater dilution. Comparing 2007 and 2010, the largest ΩAr difference was found in the eastern Ross Sea, where ΩAr was about 1.2 units lower in 2007 than in 2010. This was mainly explained by differences in Chl a (i.e primary production). In 2010 the surface water along the Ross Sea shelf was the warmest and most saline, indicating upwelling of nutrient and CO2-rich sub-surface water, likely promoting primary production leading to high Ω and pH. Results from multivariate analysis agree with our observations showing that changes in Chl a had the largest influence on the ΩAr variability. The future changes of ΩAr were estimated using reported rates of the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2, combined with our data on total alkalinity, SST and salinity (summer situation). Our study suggests that the Amundsen Sea will become undersaturated with regard to aragonite about 40 yr sooner than predicted by models.
Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification state in western Antarctic surface waters: controls and interannual variability (update)’

Ocean acidification state in western Antarctic surface waters: drivers and interannual variability

Each December during four years from 2006 to 2010, the surface water carbonate system was measured and investigated in the Amundsen Sea and Ross Sea, western Antarctica as part of the Oden Southern Ocean expeditions (OSO). The I/B Oden started in Punta Arenas in Chile and sailed southwest, passing through different regimes such as, the marginal/seasonal ice zone, fronts, coastal shelves, and polynyas. Discrete surface water was sampled underway for analysis of total alkalinity (AT), total dissolved inorganic carbon (CT) and pH. Two of these parameters were used together with sea-surface temperature (SST), and salinity to obtain a full description of the surface water carbonate system, including pH in situ and calcium carbonate saturation state of aragonite (ΩAr) and calcite (ΩCa). Multivariate analysis was used to investigate interannual variability and the major controls (sea-ice concentration, SST, salinity and chlorophyll a) on the variability in the carbonate system and Ω. This analysis showed that SST and chlorophyll a were the major drivers of the Ω variability in both the Amundsen and Ross seas. In 2007, the sea-ice edge was located further south and the area of the open polynya was relatively small compared to 2010. We found the lowest pH in situ (7.932) and Ω = 1 values in the sea-ice zone and in the coastal Amundsen Sea, nearby marine out flowing glaciers. In 2010, the sea-ice coverage was the largest and the areas of the open polynyas were the largest for the whole period. This year we found the lowest salinity and AT, coinciding with highest chl a. This implies that the highest ΩAr in 2010 was likely an effect of biological CO2 drawdown, which out-competed the dilution of carbonate ion concentration due to large melt water volumes. We predict and discuss future Ω values, using our data and reported rates of oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2, suggesting that the Amundsen Sea will become undersaturated with regard to aragonite about 20 yr sooner than predicted by models.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification state in western Antarctic surface waters: drivers and interannual variability’

Vulnerability of the calcifying larval stage of the Antarctic sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri to near-future ocean acidification and warming

Stenothermal polar benthic marine invertebrates are highly sensitive to environmental perturbations but little is known about potential synergistic effects of concurrent ocean warming and acidification on development of their embryos and larvae. We examined the effects of these stressors on development to the calcifying larval stage in the Antarctic sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri in embryos reared in present and future (2100+) ocean conditions from fertilization. Embryos were reared in 2 temperature (ambient: -1.0°C, + 2°C: 1.0°C) and 3 pH (ambient: pH 8.0, – 0.2-0.4 pH units: 7.8,7.6) levels. Principle coordinates analysis on five larval metrics showed a significant effect of temperature and pH on the pattern of growth. Within each temperature, larvae were separated by pH treatment, a pattern primarily influenced by larval arm and body length. Growth was accelerated by temperature with a 20-28% increase in postoral (PO) length at +2°C across all pH levels. Growth was strongly depressed by reduced pH with a 8-19% decrease in PO length at pH 7.6-7.8 at both temperatures. The boost in growth caused by warming resulted in larvae that were larger than would be observed if acidification was examined in the absence of warming. However, there was no significant interaction between these stressors. The increase in left-right asymmetry and altered body allometry indicated that decreased pH disrupted developmental patterning and acted as a teratogen (agent causing developmental malformation). Decreased developmental success with just a 2°C warming indicates that development in S. neumayeri is particularly sensitive to increased temperature. Increased temperature also altered larval allometry. Altered body shape impairs swimming and feeding in echinoplutei. In the absence of adaptation, it appears that the larval phase may be a bottleneck for survivorship of S. neumayeri in a changing ocean in a location where poleward migration to escape inhospitable conditions is not possible.

Continue reading ‘Vulnerability of the calcifying larval stage of the Antarctic sea urchin Sterechinus neumayeri to near-future ocean acidification and warming’

Metabolic shifts in the Antarctic fish Notothenia rossii in response to rising temperature and PCO2


Ongoing ocean warming and acidification increasingly affect marine ecosystems, in particular around the Antarctic Peninsula. Yet little is known about the capability of Antarctic notothenioid fish to cope with rising temperature in acidifying seawater. While the whole animal level is expected to be more sensitive towards hypercapnia and temperature, the basis of thermal tolerance is set at the cellular level, with a putative key role for mitochondria. This study therefore investigates the physiological responses of the Antarctic Notothenia rossii after long-term acclimation to increased temperatures (7°C) and elevated PCO2 (0.2 kPa CO2) at different levels of physiological organisation.


For an integrated picture, we analysed the acclimation capacities of N. rossii by measuring routine metabolic rate (RMR), mitochondrial capacities (state III respiration) as well as intra- and extracellular acid–base status during acute thermal challenges and after long-term acclimation to changing temperature and hypercapnia. RMR was partially compensated during warm- acclimation (decreased below the rate observed after acute warming), while elevated PCO2 had no effect on cold or warm acclimated RMR. Mitochondrial state III respiration was unaffected by temperature acclimation but depressed in cold and warm hypercapnia-acclimated fish. In both cold- and warm-exposed N. rossii, hypercapnia acclimation resulted in a shift of extracellular pH (pHe) towards more alkaline values. A similar overcompensation was visible in muscle intracellular pH (pHi). pHi in liver displayed a slight acidosis after warm normo- or hypercapnia acclimation, nevertheless, long-term exposure to higher PCO2 was compensated for by intracellular bicarbonate accumulation.


The partial warm compensation in whole animal metabolic rate indicates beginning limitations in tissue oxygen supply after warm-acclimation of N. rossii. Compensatory mechanisms of the reduced mitochondrial capacities under chronic hypercapnia may include a new metabolic equilibrium to meet the elevated energy demand for acid–base regulation. New set points of acid–base regulation under hypercapnia, visible at the systemic and intracellular level, indicate that N. rossii can at least in part acclimate to ocean warming and acidification. It remains open whether the reduced capacities of mitochondrial energy metabolism are adaptive or would impair population fitness over longer timescales under chronically elevated temperature and PCO2.

Continue reading ‘Metabolic shifts in the Antarctic fish Notothenia rossii in response to rising temperature and PCO2’

High latitude fish in a high CO2 world: synergistic effects of elevated temperature and carbon dioxide on the metabolic rates of Antarctic notothenioids

Although the physiological response of teleost fishes to increased temperature has been well documented, there is only a small body of literature that examines the effects of ocean acidification on fish under ecologically relevant scenarios. Furthermore, little data exists which examines the possible synergistic effects of increased sea surface temperatures and pCO2 levels, although it is well established that both will co-committedly change in the coming centuries. In this study we examined the effects of increased temperature, increased pCO2, and a combination of these treatments on the resting metabolic rate (RMR) of four species of notothenioid fish, Trematomus bernacchii, T. hansoni, T. newnesi, and Pagothenia borchgrevinki, acclimated to treatment conditions for 7, 14 or 28 days. While most species appear capable of rapidly acclimating to increased pCO2, temperature continues to impact RMR’s for up to 28 days. One species in particular, T. newnesi, displayed no acclimatory response to any of the treatments regardless of acclimation time and may have a reduced capacity to respond to environmental change. Furthermore, we present evidence that temperature and pCO2 act synergistically to further elevate the RMR and slow acclimation when compared to temperature or pCO2 increases alone.

Continue reading ‘High latitude fish in a high CO2 world: synergistic effects of elevated temperature and carbon dioxide on the metabolic rates of Antarctic notothenioids’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book