Posts Tagged 'Baltic'

Calcification in a marginal sea – influence of seawater [Ca2+] and carbonate chemistry on bivalve shell formation (update)

In estuarine coastal systems such as the Baltic Sea, mussels suffer from low salinity which limits their distribution. Anthropogenic climate change is expected to cause further desalination which will lead to local extinctions of mussels in the low saline areas. It is commonly accepted that mussel distribution is limited by osmotic stress. However, along the salinity gradient, environmental conditions for biomineralization are successively becoming more adverse as a result of reduced [Ca2+] and dissolved inorganic carbon (CT) availability. In larvae, calcification is an essential process starting during early development with formation of the prodissoconch I (PD I) shell, which is completed under optimal conditions within 2 days.

Experimental manipulations of seawater [Ca2+] start to impair PD I formation in Mytilus larvae at concentrations below 3 mM, which corresponds to conditions present in the Baltic at salinities below 8 g kg−1. In addition, lowering dissolved inorganic carbon to critical concentrations (< 1 mM) similarly affected PD I size, which was well correlated with calculated ΩAragonite and [Ca2+] [HCO3] ∕ [H+]in all treatments. Comparing results for larvae from the western Baltic with a population from the central Baltic revealed a significantly higher tolerance of PD I formation to lowered [Ca2+] and [Ca2+] [HCO3−] ∕ [H+][H+] in the low saline adapted population. This may result from genetic adaptation to the more adverse environmental conditions prevailing in the low saline areas of the Baltic.

The combined effects of lowered [Ca2+] and adverse carbonate chemistry represent major limiting factors for bivalve calcification and can thereby contribute to distribution limits of mussels in the Baltic Sea.

Continue reading ‘Calcification in a marginal sea – influence of seawater [Ca2+] and carbonate chemistry on bivalve shell formation (update)’

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)’

Early development of the threespine stickleback in relation to water pH

Ocean acidification is a growing environmental problem, and there is a need to investigate how the decreasing pH will affect marine organisms. Here we studied the effects of lowered pH on the growth and development of the threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) eggs. Adult fish, collected from the natural environment, were allowed to mate in aquaria and the newly produced eggs were incubated in an experiment. Eggs and larvae from ambient conditions (produced in the laboratory) were reared at three different pH concentrations (control: pH 7.8; and reduced pH treatments: pH 7.5 and 7.0) for 21 days in the laboratory. Dissolved oxygen concentration (8.1 ± 0.1 mg l−1) and temperature (18.6 ± 0.02°C) were monitored regularly. Then, egg diameter, larval length, weight and survival were measured. There was no relationship between egg diameter and pH or oxygen, but a negative relationship was found with temperature. Survival of larvae was not affected by pH or temperature, whereas dissolved oxygen concentration had a positive effect on number of survivors. The pH did not have a significant effect on the final larval length on day 21, but interacted significantly with dissolved oxygen. Higher temperatures were found to have a positive effect on the final larval length and weight. Larval weight, on the other hand, was not related to pH nor oxygen. Coastal zones are characterized by pH levels that fluctuate due to natural processes, such as upwelling and river runoff. Our results suggest that the threespine stickleback larvae are well adapted to the different pHs tested, and egg development will likely not be affected by decreasing pH, but even slight temperature and oxygen changes can have a great impact on the threespine stickleback development.

Continue reading ‘Early development of the threespine stickleback in relation to water pH’

Biogeographic vulnerability to ocean acidification and warming in a marine bivalve


• Low pH reduces hatching in the Baltic, southern and northern East Atlantic clade.
• Temperature rise alleviates pH effects on hatching success in the East Atlantic clades.
• Smallest hatching sizes were found in low pH (< 7.5) calcite-undersaturated seawater.
• Temperature rise reduces hatching size in the Baltic and northern East Atlantic clade.
• The Gulf of Finland population appears most endangered in future high pCO2waters.


Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are rapidly changing seawater temperature, pH and carbonate chemistry. This study compares the embryonic development under high pCO2conditions across the south-north distribution range of the marine clam Limecola balthicain NW Europe. The combined effects of elevated temperature and reduced pH on hatching success and size varied strongly between the three studied populations, with the Gulf of Finland population appearing most endangered under the conditions predicted to occur by 2100. These results demonstrate that the assessment of marine faunal population persistence to future climatic conditions needs to consider the interactive effects of co-occurring physico-chemical alterations in seawater within the local context that determines population fitness, adaptation potential and the system resilience to environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Biogeographic vulnerability to ocean acidification and warming in a marine bivalve’

DISCO – Drivers and impacts of coastal ocean acidification

Ocean acidification, mainly attributed to the increasing anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere, is characterised by a lowering pH together with a shift in the sea water carbonate chemistry toward lower concentration of carbonate ions. On the coasts, where the environmental variability is high due to natural and human impacts, ocean acidification mainly affects the frequency, magnitude, and duration of lower pH and lower calcium carbonate saturation events. Coastal ecosystems are adapted to environmental variability such as frequent changes in salinity, temperature, pH, oxygen levels and organic matter content. However, the effects of an increase of the range of this variability on coastal species, and especially on calcifiers, are still not clear. In this context, this thesis explores the impacts of coastal ocean acidification combined with other environmental stressors on benthic foraminifera.

In the Skagerrak-Baltic Sea region, foraminifera faunas varied along a strong gradient in terms of salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen concentration, and species were adapted to local environmental stressors. However, the specimens of Ammonia spp. and Elphidium spp. observed in the south Baltic Sea were partially to completely dissolved, probably due to a combination of different stressors affecting the required energy for biomineralisation.

In a culture study, the coastal species Ammonia spp. and E. crispum were found to be resistant to dissolution under varying salinity and pH, which reflects the environmental variations in their natural habitats. However, their resistance to lower pH is decreased when cultured in brackish water conditions, and living decalcified specimens were also observed under a salinity of 5. This underlines the importance of a high salinity in the calcification process of foraminifera.

At the entrance of the Baltic Sea, environmental changes during the last 200 years were reconstructed using foraminiferal faunas. Four periods were identified with varying oxygen levels, salinity, organic matter content, and pollution with lower pH. This highlights that foraminiferal faunas were able to adapt to multiple environmental stressors.

This thesis concludes that, even if coastal species of foraminifera can tolerate extremely varying conditions in their environment on the short term, it is likely that tolerance thresholds will be passed for benthic ecosystems under the future increase in anthropogenic impacts such as coastal ocean acidification.

Further studies of micro-organisms such as foraminifera will be necessary to improve our understanding of past environmental changes and to put present and future changes into a larger context.

Continue reading ‘DISCO – Drivers and impacts of coastal ocean acidification’

The effects of multiple stressors on the distribution of coastal benthic foraminifera: a case study from the Skagerrak-Baltic Sea region


Foraminifera in the Skagerrak-Baltic region are adapted to the large environmental conditions.
• Living dissolved Ammonia spp. and Elphidium spp. were found in the south Baltic Sea.
• The combination of multiple factors influences the energy available for biogenic calcification.
• Benthic ecosystems will be affected by an increase in the environmental variability.


Coastal ecosystems are subjected to both large natural variability and increasing anthropogenic impact on environmental parameters such as changes in salinity, temperature, and pH. This study documents the distribution of living benthic foraminifera under the influence of multiple environmental stressors in the Skagerrak-Baltic Sea region. Sediment core tops were studied at five sites along a transect from the Skagerrak to the Baltic Sea, with strong environmental gradients, especially in terms of salinity, pH, calcium carbonate saturation and dissolved oxygen concentration in the bottom water and pore water. We found that living foraminiferal densities and species richness were higher at the Skagerrak station, where the general living conditions were relatively beneficial for Foraminifera, with higher salinity and Ωcalc in the water column and higher pH and oxygen concentration in the bottom and pore water. The most common species reported at each station reflect the differences in the environmental conditions between the stations. The dominant species were Cassidulina laevigata and Hyalinea balthica in the Skagerrak, Stainforthia fusiformis, Nonionella aff. stella and Nonionoides turgida in the Kattegat and N. aff. stella and Nonionellina labradorica in the Öresund. The most adverse conditions, such as low salinity, low Ωcalc, low dissolved oxygen concentrations and low pH, were noted at the Baltic Sea stations, where the calcareous tests of the dominant living taxa Ammonia spp. and Elphidium spp. were partially to completely dissolved, probably due to a combination of different stressors affecting the required energy for biomineralization. Even though Foraminifera are able to live in extremely varying environmental conditions, the present results suggest that the benthic coastal ecosystems in the studied region, which are apparently affected by an increase in the range of environmental variability, will probably be even more influenced by a future increase in anthropogenic impacts, including coastal ocean acidification and deoxygenation.

Continue reading ‘The effects of multiple stressors on the distribution of coastal benthic foraminifera: a case study from the Skagerrak-Baltic Sea region’

Mussel larvae modify calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry to promote calcification

Understanding mollusk calcification sensitivity to ocean acidification (OA) requires a better knowledge of calcification mechanisms. Especially in rapidly calcifying larval stages, mechanisms of shell formation are largely unexplored—yet these are the most vulnerable life stages. Here we find rapid generation of crystalline shell material in mussel larvae. We find no evidence for intracellular CaCO3 formation, indicating that mineral formation could be constrained to the calcifying space beneath the shell. Using microelectrodes we show that larvae can increase pH and [CO32−] beneath the growing shell, leading to a ~1.5-fold elevation in calcium carbonate saturation state (Ωarag). Larvae exposed to OA exhibit a drop in pH, [CO32−] and Ωarag at the site of calcification, which correlates with decreased shell growth, and, eventually, shell dissolution. Our findings help explain why bivalve larvae can form shells under moderate acidification scenarios and provide a direct link between ocean carbonate chemistry and larval calcification rate.

Continue reading ‘Mussel larvae modify calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry to promote calcification’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book