Posts Tagged 'Baltic'

Ocean acidification in the Baltic Sea : implications for the bivalve Macoma balthica

The Baltic Sea is one of the most human-impacted sea areas in the world and its ecosystems are exposed to a variety of stressors of anthropogenic origin. Large changes in the environmental conditions, species and communities of the Baltic Sea are predicted to occur due to global climate change, but the extent and magnitude of the future changes are challenging to estimate due to the multiple stressors simultaneously impacting the system. As an additional threat, future ocean acidification will play a role in modifying the environmental conditions, and these CO2-induced changes are predicted to be fast in the Baltic Sea. This is especially of concern for the species-poor, but functionally essential benthic communities where key species such as bivalve Macoma balthica live at the limits of their tolerance range, and are already regularly disturbed by environmental stressors such as hypoxia. Currently, only very limited knowledge about the effects of future ocean acidification exists for this species.

The overall aim of my thesis was to develop an understanding of the effects of CO2 increase on the vulnerability of Baltic Sea key species, and how this is related to other effects of climate change, e.g. an increase in bottom-water hypoxia. Specifically, I investigated how different life stages of the infaunal bivalve M. balthica could be affected by future ocean acidification. Survival, growth, behaviour and physiological responses were assessed in a combination of laboratory and mesocosm experiments by exposing different life stages of M. balthica to different pH levels over different time periods depending on the life stage in question. While some life stage-based differences in vulnerability and survival were found, the results indicate that reduced pH has a negative effect on all life stages. In larval M. balthica, even a slight pH decrease was found to cause significant negative changes during that delicate life stage, both by slowing growth and by decreasing survival. Other observed impacts included delayed settling of the post-larvae and increasing energetic demand of adult bivalves.

The results suggest consistent negative effects at all life stages with potential major implications for the resilience of M. Balthica populations, which are currently under threat from a range of anthropogenic stressors such as increasing hypoxia. The kind of experimental studies conducted in this thesis are useful for pinpointing mechanisms, but they are always simplifications of reality, however, and are usually conducted over time scales that are short in relation to the time scales over which ocean acidification is affecting populations, communities and ecosystems. To fully understand and to be able to estimate how the complex ecosystems are about to change in the future, incorporating more of the biotic interactions, impacting stressors and relevant environmental conditions are needed for increasing the level of realism in the experiments.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification in the Baltic Sea : implications for the bivalve Macoma balthica’

Naturally acidified habitat selects for ocean acidification–tolerant mussels

Ocean acidification severely affects bivalves, especially their larval stages. Consequently, the fate of this ecologically and economically important group depends on the capacity and rate of evolutionary adaptation to altered ocean carbonate chemistry. We document successful settlement of wild mussel larvae (Mytilus edulis) in a periodically CO2-enriched habitat. The larval fitness of the population originating from the CO2-enriched habitat was compared to the response of a population from a nonenriched habitat in a common garden experiment. The high CO2–adapted population showed higher fitness under elevated PCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) than the non-adapted cohort, demonstrating, for the first time, an evolutionary response of a natural mussel population to ocean acidification. To assess the rate of adaptation, we performed a selection experiment over three generations. CO2 tolerance differed substantially between the families within the F1 generation, and survival was drastically decreased in the highest, yet realistic, PCO2 treatment. Selection of CO2-tolerant F1 animals resulted in higher calcification performance of F2 larvae during early shell formation but did not improve overall survival. Our results thus reveal significant short-term selective responses of traits directly affected by ocean acidification and long-term adaptation potential in a key bivalve species. Because immediate response to selection did not directly translate into increased fitness, multigenerational studies need to take into consideration the multivariate nature of selection acting in natural habitats. Combinations of short-term selection with long-term adaptation in populations from CO2-enriched versus nonenriched natural habitats represent promising approaches for estimating adaptive potential of organisms facing global change.

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The future for microplankton in the Baltic Sea – Effects of SWS and climate change

The Baltic Sea is located between 53°N to 66°N and from 10°E to 30°E and is the second largest brackish water body in the world. It consists of several basins where the Baltic Proper is the major water mass. Around 85 million people live in the catchment area of the Baltic Sea, which subjects it to a range of environmental pressures, such as increased nutrient inputs from human activities (eutrophication), shipping, over-fishing, acid rain and trace metals released from anti-fouling paint. All these stressors, combined with low alkalinity, variable salinity and limited water exchange, makes the Baltic Sea a very sensitive area that may be less resilient to future stressors such as climate change or increased shipping activities. Microplankton communities consist of small heterotrophic bacteria, picoplankton, phytoplankton, cyanobacteria and smaller grazers, such as ciliates and zooplankton. In the Baltic Proper, there is a succession of blooms, within the microplankton community, from diatoms and dinoflagellates in the early spring to cyanobacteria during summer and ending with a second diatom and dinoflagellate bloom in the autumn. The cyanobacteria of the Baltic Proper bloom every summer and are dominated by Aphanizomenon sp. and Nodularia spumigena. Dolichospermum spp. is present but is less abundant. The effects of climate change were tested on a natural microplankton community, as well as on isolated cyanobacteria species from the Baltic Sea. To simulate effects of climate change, the temperature was increased from 12°C to 16°C, salinity decreased from 6-7 to 3-4 and atmospheric pCO2-levels was increased from 380 ppm to 960 ppm. The biovolume of Aphanizomenon sp. and N. spumigena increased when temperature was increased by 4°C. When salinity was decreased by three units, both the growth and photosynthetic activity of N. spumigena were reduced while Aphanizomenon sp. was unaffected, and the growth of Dolichospermum sp. was increased. Furthermore, present-day salinities were beneficial, in terms of increased biovolumes, of diatoms, dinoflagellates and ciliates, compared to reduced future salinity. Increased atmospheric pCO2 had no effect on any of the species in the microplankton community. These results show that the future microplankton community may be positive, in terms of increased biovolume, for the cyanobacteria species Aphanizomenon sp. and Dolichospermum spp. An increase of cyanobacteria blooms may open up to the possibility to grow and/or harvest these species as a source of biofuel or fatty acids (FA). Dolichospermum sp. yielded higher total FA content per biovolume, compared to the other two cyanobacteria species in phosphorus-depleted medium and Aphanizomenon sp. in nitrogen-depleted medium. Natural nutrient levels in the Baltic Proper are low both in nitrogen and phosphorus, which indicates a possible future market for biofuel and FA technologies. Additionally, the effects of seawater scrubbing (SWS) were tested on a natural summer-bloom microplankton community. Three different concentrations of scrubber water were added; 1%, 3% and 10%. To elucidate effects of decreased pH alone, water acidified with H2SO4 was added in equal concentrations. The six treatments were compared to a control without acidifying substances. SWS or the corresponding pH treatments, did not have a direct effect on microplankton species composition and biovolume. However, the increased amount of Cu and Zn in the scrubber water, combined with significant decrease in pH and alkalinity already at the 1% scrubber water treatment calls for precaution when implementing scrubber units on the shipping fleet of the Baltic Sea. The accumulated effects of long-term repeated addition constantly throughout the year, i.e. in a shipping lane, are yet to be elucidated.

Continue reading ‘The future for microplankton in the Baltic Sea – Effects of SWS and climate change’

Climate change can cause complex responses in Baltic Sea macroalgae: A systematic review

Estuarine macroalgae are important primary producers in aquatic ecosystems, and often foundation species providing structurally complex habitat. Climate change alters many abiotic factors that affect their long-term persistence and distribution. Here, we review the existing scientific literature on the tolerance of key macroalgal species in the Baltic Sea, the world’s largest brackish water body. Elevated temperature is expected to intensify coastal eutrophication, further promoting growth of opportunistic, filamentous species, especially green algae, which are often species associated with intensive filamentous algal blooms. Declining salinities will push the distributions of marine species towards south, which may alter the Baltic Sea community compositions towards a more limnic state. Together with increasing eutrophication trends this may cause losses in marine-originating foundation species such as Fucus, causing severe biodiversity impacts. Experimental results on ocean acidification effects on macroalgae are mixed, with only few studies conducted in the Baltic Sea. We conclude that climate change can alter the structure and functioning of macroalgal ecosystems especially in the northern Baltic coastal areas, and can potentially act synergistically with eutrophication. We briefly discuss potential adaptation measures.

Continue reading ‘Climate change can cause complex responses in Baltic Sea macroalgae: A systematic review’

Changes in wintertime pH and hydrography of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) with focus on depth layers

We studied changes in sea water pH, temperature and salinity with focus on two depth layers, along the Gulf of Finland (the Baltic Sea) using long-term monitoring data from 1979 to 2015. Data from the most frequently sampled monitoring stations between western and eastern Gulf of Finland were used. The main result of the study reveals that pH has decreased both in surface and deep-water in the western Gulf of Finland with values ranging between −0.005 and −0.008 units year−1. We also demonstrate a rise in temperature (~2 °C) and decrease in salinity (~−0.7 g kg−1) at several stations over the last 36 years. In general, the changes are shown to be more pronounced in the western part of the gulf. This paper also stresses the importance of improving the sampling frequency and quality of monitoring measurements.

Continue reading ‘Changes in wintertime pH and hydrography of the Gulf of Finland (Baltic Sea) with focus on depth layers’

Climate change, zooplankton and fisheries

We summarize responses to and mechanisms by which zooplankton cope with climate change. Effects of ocean warming include altered phenology, body size reduction, decline of tropical zooplankton biomass, functional group shifts in Polar Regions, and poleward expansion of zooplankton distributions. Thermal specialists (zooplankton from tropical and Polar Regions) may already perform near their limits and will be more vulnerable to warming. Evolutionary adaptation may mitigate, but not always fully offset the adverse effects of warming; thus, dispersal may play a prevalent role in the future distribution of species. While direct negative effects of ocean acidification is largely confined to calcifying organisms, early life stages of noncalcifying species (e.g., copepods, fish larvae) are susceptible to sublethal effects, particularly in combination with increasing temperature. Evidence is emerging for a large adaptation potential to hypercapnia in zooplankton. Hypoxia negatively affects physiology and life history traits. Despite zooplankton physiological and behavioral adaptations to hypoxia, shoaling of hypoxic waters likely increases predation mortality. Combined effects of warming, hypercapnia and hypoxia are poorly characterized or understood, but will likely depress performance and narrow the thermal performance curve. Climate change could result in different kinds of mismatches between zooplankton and fish larvae, i.e., (i) temporal, (ii) spatial, (iii) bioenergetic, and (iv) evolutionary mistmatches that individually or in combination, would result in altered larval fish growth and survival. Linkages between climate, zooplankton and fisheries are explored using the Baltic Sea as a case study.

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Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms

In contrast to clear stimulatory effects of rising temperature, recent studies of the effects of CO2 on planktonic bacteria have reported conflicting results. To better understand the potential impact of predicted climate scenarios on the development and performance of bacterial communities, we performed bifactorial mesocosm experiments (pCO2 and temperature) with Baltic Sea water, during a diatom dominated bloom in autumn and a mixed phytoplankton bloom in summer. The development of bacterial community composition (BCC) followed well-known algal bloom dynamics. A principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) of bacterial OTUs (operational taxonomic units) revealed that phytoplankton succession and temperature were the major variables structuring the bacterial community whereas the impact of pCO2 was weak. Prokaryotic abundance and carbon production, and organic matter concentration and composition were partly affected by temperature but not by increased pCO2. However, pCO2 did have significant and potentially direct effects on the relative abundance of several dominant OTUs; in some cases, these effects were accompanied by an antagonistic impact of temperature. Our results suggest the necessity of high-resolution BCC analyses and statistical analyses at the OTU level to detect the strong impact of CO2 on specific bacterial groups, which in turn might also influence specific organic matter degradation processes.

Continue reading ‘Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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