Posts Tagged 'Antarctic'

Inter and intraspecific comparisons of the skeletal Mg/Ca ratios of high latitude Antarctic echinoderms

Echinoderms are vulnerable to ocean acidification because of their high magnesium calcite skeletons. Here, skeletal Mg/Ca ratios were examined within and between individuals of 20 Antarctic echinoderms representative of the asteroids, ophiuroids and echinoids. The highest mean Mg/Ca ratios occurred in the discs and arms (0.111 and 0.110, respectively) of brittle-stars and the lowest in the spines (0.010) of cidaroid sea urchins. Many taxa (11 of 14 species) from the collection sites showed no intraspecific differences in Mg/Ca ratios between given skeletal components. Exceptions were the spines of two regular sea urchins and the skeletal ossicles of the combined arms and disc of a brittle-star. The relationship between skeletal magnesium content and latitude was further evaluated and an inverse correlation was found between Antarctic echinoderm taxa skeletal magnesium content and latitude across 62° to 76°, indicating that the relationship occurs over relatively narrow latitudes. Upon examination of an even narrower range (70–76° latitude), a region where the mineralogy of echinoderm skeletons has not been investigated, the predicted inverse relationship between Mg/Ca ratio and latitude was still observed in sea-stars, but not in brittle-stars or sea urchins.

Continue reading ‘Inter and intraspecific comparisons of the skeletal Mg/Ca ratios of high latitude Antarctic echinoderms’

Carbonate chemistry of an in-situ free-ocean CO2 enrichment experiment (antFOCE) in comparison to short term variation in Antarctic coastal waters

Free-ocean CO2 enrichment (FOCE) experiments have been deployed in marine ecosystems to manipulate carbonate system conditions to those predicted in future oceans. We investigated whether the pH/carbonate chemistry of extremely cold polar waters can be manipulated in an ecologically relevant way, to represent conditions under future atmospheric CO2 levels, in an in-situ FOCE experiment in Antarctica. We examined spatial and temporal variation in local ambient carbonate chemistry at hourly intervals at two sites between December and February and compared these with experimental conditions. We successfully maintained a mean pH offset in acidified benthic chambers of −0.38 (±0.07) from ambient for approximately 8 weeks. Local diel and seasonal fluctuations in ambient pH were duplicated in the FOCE system. Large temporal variability in acidified chambers resulted from system stoppages. The mean pH, Ωarag and fCO2 values in the acidified chambers were 7.688 ± 0.079, 0.62 ± 0.13 and 912 ± 150 µatm, respectively. Variation in ambient pH appeared to be mainly driven by salinity and biological production and ranged from 8.019 to 8.192 with significant spatio-temporal variation. This experiment demonstrates the utility of FOCE systems to create conditions expected in future oceans that represent ecologically relevant variation, even under polar conditions.

Continue reading ‘Carbonate chemistry of an in-situ free-ocean CO2 enrichment experiment (antFOCE) in comparison to short term variation in Antarctic coastal waters’

Dimethylsulfide (DMS) production in polar oceans may be resilient to ocean acidification

Emissions of dimethylsulfide (DMS) from the polar oceans play a key role in atmospheric processes and climate. Therefore, it is important we increase our understanding of how DMS production in these regions may respond to environmental change. The polar oceans are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification (OA). However, our understanding of the polar DMS response is limited to two studies conducted in Arctic waters, where in both cases DMS concentrations decreased with increasing acidity. Here, we report on our findings from seven summertime shipboard microcosm experiments undertaken in a variety of locations in the Arctic Ocean and Southern Ocean. These experiments reveal no significant effects of short term OA on the net production of DMS by planktonic communities. This is in contrast to identical experiments from temperate NW European shelf waters where surface ocean communities responded to OA with significant increases in dissolved DMS concentrations. A meta-analysis of the findings from both temperate and polar waters (n = 18 experiments) reveals clear regional differences in the DMS response to OA. We suggest that these regional differences in DMS response reflect the natural variability in carbonate chemistry to which the respective communities may already be adapted. Future temperate oceans could be more sensitive to OA resulting in a change in DMS emissions to the atmosphere, whilst perhaps surprisingly DMS emissions from the polar oceans may remain relatively unchanged. By demonstrating that DMS emissions from geographically distinct regions may vary in response to OA, our results may facilitate a better understanding of Earth’s future climate. Our study suggests that the way in which processes that generate DMS respond to OA may be regionally distinct and this should be taken into account in predicting future DMS emissions and their influence on Earth’s climate.

Continue reading ‘Dimethylsulfide (DMS) production in polar oceans may be resilient to ocean acidification’

Antarctic emerald rockcod have the capacity to compensate for warming when uncoupled from CO2-acidification

Increases in atmospheric CO2 levels and associated ocean changes are expected to have dramatic impacts on marine ecosystems. Although the Southern Ocean is experiencing some of the fastest rates of change, few studies have explored how Antarctic fishes may be affected by co-occurring ocean changes, and even fewer have examined early life stages. To date, no studies have characterized potential trade-offs in physiology and behavior in response to projected multiple climate change stressors (ocean acidification and warming) on Antarctic fishes. We exposed juvenile emerald rockcod Trematomus bernacchii to three PCO2 treatments (~450, ~850, and ~1,200 μatm PCO2) at two temperatures (−1 or 2°C). After 2, 7, 14, and 28 days, metrics of physiological performance including cardiorespiratory function (heart rate [fH] and ventilation rate [fV]), metabolic rate (M˙O2), and cellular enzyme activity were measured. Behavioral responses, including scototaxis, activity, exploration, and escape response were assessed after 7 and 14 days. Elevated PCO2 independently had little impact on either physiology or behavior in juvenile rockcod, whereas warming resulted in significant changes across acclimation time. After 14 days, fH, fV and M˙O2 significantly increased with warming, but not with elevated PCO2. Increased physiological costs were accompanied by behavioral alterations including increased dark zone preference up to 14%, reduced activity by 12%, as well as reduced escape time suggesting potential trade-offs in energetics. After 28 days, juvenile rockcod demonstrated a degree of temperature compensation as fV, M˙O2, and cellular metabolism significantly decreased following the peak at 14 days; however, temperature compensation was only evident in the absence of elevated PCO2. Sustained increases in fV and M˙O2 after 28 days exposure to elevated PCO2 indicate additive (fV) and synergistic (M˙O2) interactions occurred in combination with warming. Stressor-induced energetic trade-offs in physiology and behavior may be an important mechanism leading to vulnerability of Antarctic fishes to future ocean change.

Continue reading ‘Antarctic emerald rockcod have the capacity to compensate for warming when uncoupled from CO2-acidification’

Ocean acidification of a coastal Antarctic marine microbial community reveals a critical threshold for CO2 tolerance in phytoplankton productivity (update)

High-latitude oceans are anticipated to be some of the first regions affected by ocean acidification. Despite this, the effect of ocean acidification on natural communities of Antarctic marine microbes is still not well understood. In this study we exposed an early spring, coastal marine microbial community in Prydz Bay to CO2 levels ranging from ambient (343 µatm) to 1641 µatm in six 650 L minicosms. Productivity assays were performed to identify whether a CO2 threshold existed that led to a change in primary productivity, bacterial productivity, and the accumulation of chlorophyll a (Chl a) and particulate organic matter (POM) in the minicosms. In addition, photophysiological measurements were performed to identify possible mechanisms driving changes in the phytoplankton community. A critical threshold for tolerance to ocean acidification was identified in the phytoplankton community between 953 and 1140 µatm. CO2 levels  ≥ 1140 µatm negatively affected photosynthetic performance and Chl a-normalised primary productivity (csGPP14C), causing significant reductions in gross primary production (GPP14C), Chl a accumulation, nutrient uptake, and POM production. However, there was no effect of CO2 on C : N ratios. Over time, the phytoplankton community acclimated to high CO2 conditions, showing a down-regulation of carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) and likely adjusting other intracellular processes. Bacterial abundance initially increased in CO2 treatments  ≥ 953 µatm (days 3–5), yet gross bacterial production (GBP14C) remained unchanged and cell-specific bacterial productivity (csBP14C) was reduced. Towards the end of the experiment, GBP14C and csBP14C markedly increased across all treatments regardless of CO2 availability. This coincided with increased organic matter availability (POC and PON) combined with improved efficiency of carbon uptake. Changes in phytoplankton community production could have negative effects on the Antarctic food web and the biological pump, resulting in negative feedbacks on anthropogenic CO2 uptake. Increases in bacterial abundance under high CO2 conditions may also increase the efficiency of the microbial loop, resulting in increased organic matter remineralisation and further declines in carbon sequestration.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification of a coastal Antarctic marine microbial community reveals a critical threshold for CO2 tolerance in phytoplankton productivity (update)’

Distribution of planktonic biogenic carbonate organisms in the Southern Ocean south of Australia: a baseline for ocean acidification impact assessment (update)

The Southern Ocean provides a vital service by absorbing about one-sixth of humankind’s annual emissions of CO2. This comes with a cost – an increase in ocean acidity that is expected to have negative impacts on ocean ecosystems. The reduced ability of phytoplankton and zooplankton to precipitate carbonate shells is a clearly identified risk. The impact depends on the significance of these organisms in Southern Ocean ecosystems, but there is very little information on their abundance or distribution. To quantify their presence, we used coulometric measurement of particulate inorganic carbonate (PIC) on particles filtered from surface seawater into two size fractions: 50–1000 µm to capture foraminifera (the most important biogenic carbonate-forming zooplankton) and 1–50 µm to capture coccolithophores (the most important biogenic carbonate-forming phytoplankton). Ancillary measurements of biogenic silica (BSi) and particulate organic carbon (POC) provided context, as estimates of the biomass of diatoms (the highest biomass phytoplankton in polar waters) and total microbial biomass, respectively. Results for nine transects from Australia to Antarctica in 2008–2015 showed low levels of PIC compared to Northern Hemisphere polar waters. Coccolithophores slightly exceeded the biomass of diatoms in subantarctic waters, but their abundance decreased more than 30-fold poleward, while diatom abundances increased, so that on a molar basis PIC was only 1 % of BSi in Antarctic waters. This limited importance of coccolithophores in the Southern Ocean is further emphasized in terms of their associated POC, representing less than 1 % of total POC in Antarctic waters and less than 10 % in subantarctic waters. NASA satellite ocean-colour-based PIC estimates were in reasonable agreement with the shipboard results in subantarctic waters but greatly overestimated PIC in Antarctic waters. Contrastingly, the NASA Ocean Biogeochemical Model (NOBM) shows coccolithophores as overly restricted to subtropical and northern subantarctic waters. The cause of the strong southward decrease in PIC abundance in the Southern Ocean is not yet clear. The poleward decrease in pH is small, and while calcite saturation decreases strongly southward, it remains well above saturation ( > 2). Nitrate and phosphate variations would predict a poleward increase. Temperature and competition with diatoms for limiting iron appear likely to be important. While the future trajectory of coccolithophore distributions remains uncertain, their current low abundances suggest small impacts on overall Southern Ocean pelagic ecology.

Continue reading ‘Distribution of planktonic biogenic carbonate organisms in the Southern Ocean south of Australia: a baseline for ocean acidification impact assessment (update)’

Past and future evolution of the carbonate system in a coastal zone of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula


• Anthropogenic carbon concentrations are estimated within the mixed layer using three different methods.
• There is a large increasing rate of anthropogenic carbon penetration in the deep waters.
• Undersaturated aragonite saturation state at sea surface could be reached before year 2060.
• An alternative method for calculating anthropogenic carbon is purposed for regions with low carbonate system datasets.


It is arduous to gather a good spatial and temporal dataset of marine carbonate properties, especially in the Southern Ocean. In this study, we have reconstructed the carbonate system in the Gerlache Strait, a coastal zone of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula. We also analyzed the impact of ocean acidification by calculating the tipping points of the calcium carbonate saturation states and pH (i.e., when saturation state and pH goes below one and 7, respectively). Hydrographic and carbonate data from three distinct data sets (GOAL – 2013 to 2016, FRUELA – 1996, and World Ocean Database – 1965 to 2004) have been joined and used to reconstruct the carbonate system from the past 50 years. Temporal annual mean trends were determined depending on the water column depth-layer. The northern Gerlache Strait showed a significant increasing trend of CT concentrations (1.0024 ± 0.34 µmol kg–1) and related pH decreasing trend (–0.0026 ± 0.0009 sws) in the surface mixed layer (> 60 m). The properties variability is relatively different (magnitudes and signs) between the northern and southern sectors of the Gerlache Strait, which indicate that adjacent regions to the Gerlache Strait to the southwest and north, respectively, may major influence the regional carbonate dynamics. Results also show that episodic under-saturation conditions, in relation to aragonite within the surface mixed layer, may already occur, especially in regions close to large glaciers.

Continue reading ‘Past and future evolution of the carbonate system in a coastal zone of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book