Posts Tagged 'Arctic'



Epibenthos dynamics and environmental fluctuations in two contrasting polar carbonate factories (Mosselbukta and Bjørnøy-Banken, Svalbard)

The Arctic Svalbard Archipelago hosts the world’s northernmost cold-water ‘carbonate factories’ thriving here despite of presumably unfavourable environmental conditions and extreme seasonality. Two contrasting sites of intense biogenic carbonate production, the rhodolith beds in Mosselbukta in the north of the archipelago and the barnacle-mollusc dominated carbonate sediments accumulating in the strong hydrodynamic regime of the Bjørnøy-Banken south of Spitsbergen, were the targets of the RV Maria S. Merian cruise 55 in June 2016. By integrating data from physical oceanography, marine biology, and marine geology, the present contribution characterises the environmental setting and biosedimentary dynamics of these two polar carbonate factories. Repetitive CTD profiling in concert with autonomous temperature/salinity loggers on a long-term settlement platform identified spatiotemporal patterns in the involved Atlantic and Polar water masses, whereas short-term deployments of a lander revealed fluctuations of environmental variables in the rhodolith beds in Mosselbukta and at same depth (46 m) at Bjørnøy-Banken. At both sites, dissolved inorganic nutrients in the water column were found depleted (except for elevated ammonium concentrations) and show an overall increase in concentration and N:P ratios toward deeper waters. This indicates that a recycling system was fuelling primary production after the phytoplankton spring bloom at the time of sampling in June 2016. Accordingly, oxygen levels were found elevated and carbon dioxide concentrations (pCO2) markedly reduced, on average only half the expected equilibrium values. Backed up by seawater stable carbon and oxygen isotope signatures, this is interpreted as an effect of limited air-sea gas exchange during seasonal ice cover in combination with a boost in community photosynthesis during the spring phytoplankton bloom. The observed trends are enhanced by the onset of rhodophyte photosynthesis in the rhodolith beds during the polar day upon retreat of sea-ice. Potential adverse effects of ocean acidification on the local calcifier community are thus predicted to be seasonally buffered by the marked drop in pCO2 during the phase of sea-ice cover and spring phyto-plankton bloom, but this effect will diminish should the seasonal sea-ice formation continue to decline. Among the 25 macrobenthos taxa identified from images captured by the lander’s camera system, all but three species were calcifiers contributing to the carbonate production. Biodiversity was found to be much higher in Mosselbukta (21 taxa) compared to Bjørnøy-Banken (8 taxa), which is considered as a result of enhanced habitat diversity provided in the rhodolith beds by the bioengineering crustose alga Lithothamnion glaciale. Filter-feeding activity of selected key species did reveal group-specific but no common activity patterns. Biotic disturbance of the filtering activity was common, in contrast to abiotic factors, with hermit crabs representing the primary trigger. Motion tracking of rhodoliths revealed a high frequency of dislocation, triggered not by abiotic factors but by the activity of benthic invertebrates, in particular echinoids ploughing below or moving over the rhodoliths. The echinoid Strongylocentrotus sp. is the most abundant component of the associated fauna, thereby considerably contributing both to carbonate production and to grazing bioerosion. Together, these results portray a high degree of seasonal as well as short-term dynamics in environmental conditions that despite many similarities support distinctly different communities and biodiversity patterns in the calcifying macrobenthos at the two studied polar carbonate factories.

Continue reading ‘Epibenthos dynamics and environmental fluctuations in two contrasting polar carbonate factories (Mosselbukta and Bjørnøy-Banken, Svalbard)’

Impact of ocean acidification and warming on mitochondrial enzymes and membrane lipids in two Gadoid species

Mitochondrial respiration is a multi-step pathway that involves matrix and membrane-associated enzymes and plays a key role in acclimation to variable environmental conditions, but until now it has not been clear which of these steps would be most important in acclimation to changing temperatures and CO2 levels. Considering scenarios of ocean warming and acidification we assessed the role and limitation to phenotypic plasticity in the hearts of two Gadoid species adapted to different thermal ranges: the polar cod (Boreogadus saida), an Arctic stenotherm, and the Northeast Arctic population of Atlantic cod (NEAC, Gadus morhua), a cold eurytherm. We analysed the capacity of single enzymes involved in mitochondrial respiration [citrate synthase (CS), succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), cytochrome c oxidase (CCO)], the capacity of the electron transport system and the lipid class composition of the cellular membranes. Juveniles of the two species were held for four months at four temperatures (0, 3, 6, 8 °C for polar cod and 3, 8, 12, 16 °C for NEAC), at both ambient and elevated PCO2 (400 µatm and 1170 µatm, respectively). Polar cod showed no changes in mitochondrial enzyme capacities and in the relative lipid class composition in response to altered temperature or elevated PCO2. The lack of cardiac cellular plasticity together with evidence at the whole-animal level coming from other studies is indicative of little or no ability to overcome stenothermy, in particular during acclimation to 8 °C. In contrast, eurythermal NEAC exhibited modifications of membrane composition towards a more rigid structure and altered enzyme capacities to preserve functionality at higher temperatures. Furthermore, in NEAC, the capacities of SDH, CCO and CS were increased by high levels of CO2 if combined with high temperatures (12 and 16 °C), suggesting the compensation of an inhibitory effect. These results indicate that the cold eurythermal species (NEAC) is able to alter its mitochondrial function to a far greater extent than the Arctic stenotherm (polar cod), indicating greater resilience to variable environmental conditions. This difference in plasticity may underpin differences in the resilience to climate change and affect future species distributions and, eventually, survival.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification and warming on mitochondrial enzymes and membrane lipids in two Gadoid species’

Energy budget, growth and exercise as proxies for performance capacity and fitness in Arctic fishes

The boreal Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) is entering the Arctic in response to rising water temperatures, likely increasing predation pressure on the endemic key species Polar cod (Boreogadus saida). In this thesis, I investigated the whole-animal performance of both fish species after long-term acclimation to future ocean acidification and warming conditions in order to estimate their future competitive strength. More precisely, I focused on aerobic performance such as baseline and maximum metabolism, as well as energetic investment into growth and swimming as indicators for fitness capacity under future ocean conditions. While G. morhua was thriving under conditions projected for the year 2100, the competitive strength of B. saida likely decreases. F.i., the growth performance of B. saida decreased at temperatures above 6 degree Celsius and the swimming performance was impaired under elevated PCO2 levels, potentially resulting in a higher vulnerability to predation and reduced foraging success.

Continue reading ‘Energy budget, growth and exercise as proxies for performance capacity and fitness in Arctic fishes’

In situ growth and bioerosion rates of Lophelia pertusa in a Norwegian fjord and open shelf cold-water coral habitat

Coral reef resilience depends on the balance between carbonate precipitation, leading to reef growth, and carbonate degradation, for example, through bioerosion. Changes in environmental conditions are likely to affect the two processes differently, thereby shifting the balance between reef growth and degradation. In cold-water corals estimates of accretion-erosion processes in their natural habitat are scarce and solely live coral growth rates were studied with regard to future environmental changes in the laboratory so far, limiting our ability to assess the potential of cold-water coral reef ecosystems to cope with environmental changes. In the present study, growth rates of the two predominant colour morphotypes of live Lophelia pertusa as well as bioerosion rates of dead coral framework were assessed in different environmental settings in Norwegian cold-water coral reefs in a 1-year in situ experiment. Net growth (in weight gain and linear extension) of live L. pertusa was in the lower range of previous estimates and did not significantly differ between inshore (fjord) and offshore (open shelf) habitats. However, slightly higher net growth rates were obtained inshore. Bioerosion rates were significantly higher on-reef in the fjord compared to off-reef deployments in- and offshore. Besides, on-reef coral fragments yielded a broader range of individual growth and bioerosion rates, indicating higher turnover in live reef structures than off-reef with regard to accretion-bioerosion processes. Moreover, if the higher variation in growth rates represents a greater variance in (genetic) adaptations to natural environmental variability in the fjord, inshore reefs could possibly benefit under future ocean change compared to offshore reefs. Although not significantly different due to high variances between replicates, growth rates of orange branches were consistently higher at all sites, while mortality was statistically significantly lower, potentially indicating higher stress-resistance than the less pigmented white phenotype. Comparing the here measured rates of net accretion of live corals (regardless of colour morphotype) with net erosion of dead coral framework gives a first estimate of the dimensions of both processes in natural cold-water coral habitats, indicating that calcium carbonate loss through bioerosion amounts to one fifth to one sixth of the production rates by coral calcification (disregarding accretion processes of other organisms and proportion of live and dead coral framework in a reef). With regard to likely accelerating bioerosion and diminishing growth rates of corals under ocean acidification, the balance of reef accretion and degradation may be shifted towards higher biogenic dissolution in the future.

Continue reading ‘In situ growth and bioerosion rates of Lophelia pertusa in a Norwegian fjord and open shelf cold-water coral habitat’

The role of river runoff in the Kara Sea surface layer acidification and carbonate system changes

This study aims to perform the results of the investigation of the Kara Sea carbonate system changes and the factors that determine it. The important feature of the Kara Sea water structure is strong stratification caused mainly by the Ob’ and Yenisey rivers discharge which is estimated as 81% of the total continental runoff to the sea. Occurring climate changes, as an increase in the total volume of the Arctic Ocean water (due to melting of glaciers, sea ice decline and river runoff increase), air temperature and CO2 concentration growth should affect greatly the Kara Sea carbonate system. However, riverine water influence seems to be the main driver of future acidification of the Kara Sea water due to permafrost thawing as it stores a great amount of buried carbon. An increase of carbon (mainly inorganic) flow to the sea will lead to carbonate equilibrium shift, oxidation of organic matter and release of CO2 that ultimately leads to a decrease in pH and therefore acidification. The area of the riverine plume depends on the amount of freshwater flowing into the sea and the conditions of the wind forcing. According to the data from Shirshov Institute cruises within the plume area aragonite saturation is below 1 that shows its state as acidified. Prevalence of pCO2 values in the freshened surface layer over the atmospheric shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide, apparently, cannot serve as the main driver for the acidification of the surface waters of the Kara Sea. At the shallow shelf to the north of the Ob’ Inlet mouth we observe acidification of the whole water column from surface to the bottom layer due to elevated riverine discharge and increase of flowing terrestrial carbon.

Continue reading ‘The role of river runoff in the Kara Sea surface layer acidification and carbonate system changes’

Net community production and carbon exchange from winter to summer in the Atlantic Water inflow to the Arctic Ocean

The eastern Fram Strait and area north of Svalbard, are influenced by the inflow of warm Atlantic water, which is high in nutrients and CO2, influencing the carbon flux into the Arctic Ocean. However, these estimates are mainly based on summer data and there is still doubt on the size of the net ocean Arctic CO2 sink. We use data on carbonate chemistry and nutrients from three cruises in 2014 in the CarbonBridge project (January, May, and August) and one in Fram Strait (August). We describe the seasonal variability and the major drivers explaining the inorganic carbon change (CDIC) in the upper 50 m, such as photosynthesis (CBIO), and air-sea CO2 exchange (CEXCH). Remotely sensed data describes the evolution of the bloom and net community production. The focus area encompasses the meltwater-influenced domain (MWD) along the ice edge, the Atlantic water inflow (AWD), and the West Spitsbergen shelf (SD). The CBIO total was 2.2 mol C m–2 in the MWD derived from the nitrate consumption between January and May. Between January and August, the CBIO was 3.0 mol C m–2 in the AWD, thus CBIO between May and August was 0.8 mol C m–2. The ocean in our study area mainly acted as a CO2 sink throughout the period. The mean CO2 sink varied between 0.1 and 2.1 mol C m–2 in the AWD in August. By the end of August, the AWD acted as a CO2 source of 0.7 mol C m–2, attributed to vertical mixing of CO2-rich waters and contribution from respiratory CO2 as net community production declined. The oceanic CO2 uptake (CEXCH) from the atmosphere had an impact on CDIC between 5 and 36%, which is of similar magnitude as the impact of the calcium carbonate (CaCO3, CCALC) dissolution of 6–18%. CCALC was attributed to be caused by a combination of the sea-ice ikaite dissolution and dissolution of advected CaCO3 shells from the south. Indications of denitrification were observed, associated with sea-ice meltwater and bottom shelf processes. CBIO played a major role (48–89%) for the impact on CDIC.

Continue reading ‘Net community production and carbon exchange from winter to summer in the Atlantic Water inflow to the Arctic Ocean’

Arctic sensitivity? Suitable habitat for benthic taxa is surprisingly robust to climate change

Arctic marine ecosystems are often assumed to be highly vulnerable to ongoing climate change, and are expected to undergo significant shifts in structure and function. Community shifts in benthic fauna are likely to result from changes in key physico-chemical drivers, such as ocean warming, but there is little ecological data on most Arctic species to support any specific predictions as to how vulnerable they are, or how future communities may be structured. We used a species distribution modeling approach (MaxEnt) to project changes over the 21st century in suitable habitat area for different species of benthic fauna by combining presence observations from the OBIS database with environmental data from a coupled climate-ocean model (SINMOD). Projected mean % habitat losses over taxonomic groups were small (0–11%), and no significant differences were found between Arctic, boreal, or Arcto-boreal groups, or between calcifying and non-calcifying groups. However, suitable habitat areas for 14 of 78 taxa were projected a change by over 20%, and several of these taxa are characteristic and/or habitat-forming fauna on some Arctic shelves, suggesting a potential for significant ecosystem impacts. These results highlight the weakness of general statements regarding vulnerability of taxa on biogeographic or presumed physiological grounds, and suggest that more basic biological data on Arctic taxa are needed for improved projections of ecosystem responses to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Arctic sensitivity? Suitable habitat for benthic taxa is surprisingly robust to climate change’

The Arctic picoeukaryote Micromonas pusilla benefits from ocean acidification under constant and dynamic light

Compared to the rest of the globe, the Arctic Ocean is affected disproportionately by climate change. Despite these fast environmental changes, we currently know little about the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on marine key species in this area. Moreover, the existing studies typically test the effects of OA under constant, hence artificial light fields. In this study, the abundant Arctic picoeukaryote Micromonas pusilla was acclimated to current (400 μatm) and future (1000 μatm) pCO2 levels under a constant as well as dynamic light, simulating natural light fields as experienced in the upper mixed layer. To describe and understand the responses to these drivers, growth, particulate organic carbon (POC) production, elemental composition, photophysiology and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production were analysed. M. pusilla was able to benefit from OA on various scales, ranging from an increase in growth rates to enhanced photosynthetic capacity, irrespective of the light regime. These beneficial effects were, however, not reflected in the POC production rates, which can be explained by energy partitioning towards cell division rather than biomass build-up. In the dynamic light regime, M. pusilla was able to optimise its photophysiology for effective light usage during both low and high light periods. This effective photoacclimation, which was achieved by modifications to photosystem II (PSII), imposed high metabolic costs leading to a reduction in growth and POC production rates when compared to constant light. There were no significant interactions observed between dynamic light and OA, indicating that M. pusilla was able maintain effective photoacclimation without increased photoinactivation under high pCO2. Based on these findings, physiologically plastic M. pusilla may exhibit a robust positive response to future Arctic Ocean conditions.

Continue reading ‘The Arctic picoeukaryote Micromonas pusilla benefits from ocean acidification under constant and dynamic light’

Factors regulating nitrification in the Arctic Ocean: potential impact of sea ice reduction and ocean acidification

Nitrification is susceptible to changes in light and pH and, thus, could be influenced by recent sea ice reductions and acidification in the Arctic Ocean. We investigated the sensitivity of nitrification to light, pH, and substrate availability in a natural nitrifier community of the Arctic Ocean. Nitrification was active near the bottom of the shelf region (250 m). In pH control experiments, nitrification rates significantly declined when the pH was manipulated to be 0.22 lower than the controls. However, nitrification was relatively insensitive to changes in pH compared to changes in light. Light control experiments showed that nitrification was inhibited by a light intensity above 0.11 mol photons m−2 day−1, which was presumably the light threshold. A light intensity greater than the light threshold extended to the shelf bottom and upper halocline layer, limiting nitrification in these waters. Satellite data analyses indicated that the area where light levels inhibit nitrification has increased throughout the Arctic Ocean due to the recent sea ice reduction, which may lead to a declining trend in nitrification. Our results suggest that stronger light levels in the future Arctic Ocean could further suppress nitrification and alter the composition of inorganic nitrogen, with implications for the structure of ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Factors regulating nitrification in the Arctic Ocean: potential impact of sea ice reduction and ocean acidification’

Episodic Arctic CO2 limitation in the west Svalbard shelf

The European Sector of the Arctic Ocean is characterized by low CO2 concentrations in seawater during spring and summer, largely due to strong biological uptake driven by extensive plankton blooms in spring. The spring plankton bloom is eventually terminated by nutrient depletion and grazing. However, low CO2 concentrations in seawater and low atmospheric resupply of CO2 can cause episodes during which the phytoplankton growth is limited by CO2. Here, we show that gross primary production (GPP) of Arctic plankton communities increases from 32 to 72% on average with CO2 additions in spring. Enhanced GPP with CO2 additions occur during episodes of high productivity, low CO2 concentration and in the presence of dissolved inorganic nutrients. However, during summer the addition of CO2 supresses planktonic Arctic GPP. Events of CO2 limitation in spring may contribute to the termination of the Arctic spring plankton blooms. The stimulation of GPP by CO2 during the spring bloom provides a biotic feedback loop that might influence the global role played by the Arctic Ocean as a CO2 sink in the future.

Continue reading ‘Episodic Arctic CO2 limitation in the west Svalbard shelf’


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